Noodling For Flatheads by Burkhard Bilger
Moonshine, Monster Catfish and Other Southern Comforts

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The Old South is slow to give up its secrets. Though satellite dishes outnumber banjo players a thousand to one, most traditions haven't died; they've just gone into hiding. Cockfighting is illegal in forty-eight states, yet there are three national cockfighting magazines and cockpits in even the most tranquil communities. Homemade liquor has been outlawed for more than a century, yet moonshiners in Virginia still ship nearly one million gallons a year. Some of these pastimes are ancient, others ultramodern; some are illegal, others merely obscure. But the people who practice them share an undeniable kinship. Instead of wealth, promotion, or a few seconds of prime time, they follow dreams that lead them ever deeper underground. They are reminders, ultimately, that American culture isn't as predictable as it seems-that the weeds growing between its cracks are its most vital signs of life.
In these masterfully crafted essays, Burkhard Bilger explores the history and practice of eight such clandestine worlds. Like John McPhee and Ian Frazier, he introduces us to people whose spirit of individualism keeps traditions alive, from a fifty-something female coon hunter who spends 340 nights a year in the woods to a visionary frog farmer and a man whose arms are scarred by the eighty-pound catfish he catches by hand. A fluid combination of adventure, history, and humor, Noodling for Flatheads is evocative, intelligent, and wonder-fully weird-a splendid antidote to the sameness of today's popular culture.

About Burkhard Bilger

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Burkhard Bilger is a senior editor at Discover, writer for The New Yorker, and series editor for The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2001. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Published March 22, 2001 by Scribner. 256 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Travel, Action & Adventure, Education & Reference. Non-fiction

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Bilger's technique is to glom himself onto an expert of a tradition—a special game of marbles, farming frogs, cockfighting, white lightning—and follow attentively, all ears but also a hapless ("I learned about the American wilderness by reading James Fenimore Cooper in German") if willing partici...

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Like Dr. Oliver Sacks, the writer with a penchant for bizarre medical cases, Bilger plumbs the depths of the new South for chapters on everything from coon hunting in Oklahoma and legal chicken fighting in Louisiana to the Dukes of Hazzard-like battle between moonshiners and the ATF in Virginia, ...

May 09 2002 | Read Full Review of Noodling For Flatheads: Moons...

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