January 28, 2014
The Southerner’s Handbook: A Guide to Living the Good Life
By David E. Petzal
Garden & Gun, a bimonthly magazine which is published in Charleston, South Carolina, is the unlikeliest magazine ever to become successful, win awards, and achieve a national circulation of 700,000. In fact, it is the oddest concept to take root since the British comedy team of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore invented a restaurant called “The Frog and Peach” (“You never know when you’re going to want a bloody great frog and a really smashing peach”) and goddamn if it didn’t take off in the real world. But I digress.
Garden & Gun is a lifestyle magazine which, in its words, covers “the best of the South, including the sporting culture, the food, the music, the art, the literature, the people and their ideas.” One reason it has succeeded is that it employs only first-rate talent. Its previous Editor in Chief was Sid Evans, who was head honcho at Field & Stream, and its current Main Man is David DiBenedetto, who was a Features Editor at F&S. Eddie Nickens is a regular contributor, and I get in a lick once in a while.
Now, G&G has graced us with The Southerner’s Handbook, an elegant volume of 287 pages that is described as a guide to living the good life below the Mason-Dixon Line. But before I describe it in more detail, I have to point out what it is not—and that is, a handbook for the Southern Dumbass, as exemplified by Larry the Cable Guy, the crew of Duck Dynasty, and so on. No sir. This is a book for people who have all of their teeth, use indoor plumbing, and know who William Faulkner is.
There is much here to interest hunters, fishermen, shooters, and cooks. There is also advice on how to tell a story, deal with venomous serpents, drink like a Southerner, say goodbye, fall off a horse, wear cowboy boots, behave, and all sorts of unlikely and wonderful stuff that is applicable even if you live in a cultural wasteland like the North.
The Southerner’s Handbook is published by Harper Collins, and costs $27.99. To me, the price is justified simply by learning that Roy Blount, Jr. owns a spade called Hrothgar the Not Very Rusty, but really, the whole book is a delight. You can get it from Amazon and the other usual suspects.