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Noodling for Flatheads: Moonshine, Monster Catfish, and Other Southern Comforts

3.78  ·  Rating Details ·  212 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
Burkhard Bilger vividly captures a world that lies outside the familiar images of life in the United States in the twenty-first century in eight superbly crafted essays about little-known corners of the South. It is a world in which grown men catch catfish with their bare hands, crowds of people cheer on chickens as they fight to the death, and a woman moves into a trailer ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published May 14th 2002 by Scribner (first published September 1st 2000)
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(showing 1-30)
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Dec 18, 2015 Jeanette rated it liked it
This is divided into essays about different collective Southern USA "outside the box" traditional activities. They are all group disciplines, practiced to obsession with intense followings. Even to the publication of strange and obscure publications or broadsheets. It's an easy book to take up and put down- reading an essay or two at a time.

Some I liked to 4 star level, and some to a 2. The writing is clear and easy read, but the sensibilities are at times, to me anyway, so "off" as to be dista
Melissa Lyttle
Dec 21, 2011 Melissa Lyttle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Burkhard Bilger likes the people he writes about and it shows. From cockfighters in the Louisiana bayou to Rolley Holers on the Tennessee-Kentucky border to moonshiners and the task force determined to shut them down, Bilger is one part anthropologist, one part folklorist and all parts masterful storyteller. The Southerner in me was prepared to bristle at some Yankee coming down to tell tall tales of quaint Southern past times, but rather than looking down or casting judgment, he embraced and em ...more
Jun 27, 2007 Christine rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone who is interested in how people live
Shelves: booksiveread
This book told me about things I'd never heard of, but which are well known in certain circles. Noodling for Flatheads is a method of fishing for catfish with your hands, something that had never occurred to me to do, but when I mentioned it to people, they knew about it and several had done it. Eating squirrel brains hadn't occurred to me, either, although I know a bit about cockfighting. Not only were these activities fascinating, but it's interesting how we can all live together and know so l ...more
Oct 15, 2007 David rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in the south
I grew up in the south but this is a study in the deep south. The south that is there behind the accent. The south no one sees just passing through. (or in my case growing up for the first 20 years of life). The topics in this are so interesting, most thought to be dead to tradition. I would say this was a very nice surprise, an educating and entertaining read on a sub-culture closer to home that you might think.
Jan 13, 2008 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
For anyone who grew up southern you will instantly be fascinated and love learning a little more about those unique quirks and customs here the deep made me have a greater appreciation and understanding of what it means to be a southerner
Jan 10, 2008 Audra rated it really liked it
a look into underground activities like catching catfish with your bare hands (hence the name), cockfighting, coon dogs, squirrel hunting and I believe there's one in there about making moonshine.
Aug 25, 2008 Bina rated it really liked it
this book is thoroughly alluring! bilger is a fleshy writer and a relentless, adventurous seeker of circumstance and character whom i gladly pay homage to with a tip of my whiskey flask.
Jan 03, 2009 Jen rated it really liked it
A finely written richly detailed respectful but astonished catalogue of strange Southern customs, like bare-handed catfish fishing and cock fights.
Mar 19, 2008 Kim rated it really liked it
Recommended to Kim by: Michael
Great writing!
Jan 28, 2009 Lanea rated it really liked it
The book is a collection of essays about underground hobbies and interests practiced throughout the south, many of which are maligned as redneck or hillbilly pursuits. The author seeks out and interviews moonshiners, raccoon hunters, squirrel-eaters, Soul-Food cooks, frog-breeders, Rolley Holers (those are folks who play a cool form of marbles), and cock-fighters.

The first essay is indeed about Noodling for Catfish, which has to be one of the most bull-headed, dangerous, and ancient methods of
Dec 19, 2007 Tracey rated it liked it
Shelves: no-longer-owned
A pass along from my mom, it took me about a week to read it, dipping in and out as I had the time. Since it's a collection of essays, it was a bit easier to read in this manner than a novel would be.

Bilger explores several esoteric pastimes/occupations from different areas of the Historic South, writing with interest and compassion, even with such sensitive topics as cockfighting and moonshine running. In fact, with the latter topic, he manages to talk with men on both sides of the law, both t
Sep 15, 2015 Kkraemer rated it really liked it
This is a John McPhee-like collection of essays about Southern pastimes -- noodling (where you catch catfish with your bare hands), cockfighting, making moonshine, hunting and eating squirrel, commercially raising frogs, coon hunting, cooking Southern food, and, finally, the amazing game of rolley hole.

Yes, rolley hole. It's played with marbles.

For each, Bilger sets a scene, explains the attraction, gives a history, and, most interestingly and McPhee-like, always has an informant who tells you e
Nov 10, 2013 Caitlin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up immediately after finishing Daniel Woodrell's incredible "Winter's Bone" as the story left me fascinated with the culture of the folk who exist under the radar within American society. I found this book absolutely intriguing reading - the first book in a while that had me having to tell myself "just one more chapter"!

Bilger explores various activities that continue within America on the margins and away from the public (and at times legal) gaze. As an Australian and having been
Jun 07, 2013 Buchdoktor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa
Nach der National Geographic Taschenbuch-Reihe kann man süchtig werden. Ob die Einzel-Bände über die Isar gleich hinter dem Haus berichten oder über die Chinesische Mauer: jeder Band ist Kino im Kopf. Der Autor, der in Oklahoma aufgewachsen ist, führt uns in jene abgelegen Gegenden der USA, die die Einwohner meist nur verlassen, wenn sie sich zur US-Army melden. Er erzählt von Coonhounds für die Wachbärenjagd, Hahnenkämpfen, Schnapsbrennern, Wilderern und anderen knorrigen Gestalten, die jagen, ...more
Craig Pittman
Jan 17, 2012 Craig Pittman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A terrific read, and educational to boot. Bilger very nearly achieves a McPhee-like grace with his writing and his good humor about what he observes and experiences. The section on moonshine might be my favorite, but the final story, about how an odd marble game captivated the people of the Appalachian foothills and led to an international contest, is the best demonstration of his ability to captivate a reader with what at first might seem an unlikely topic. I took points off for his chapter on ...more
May 03, 2009 Chris rated it really liked it
Fabulous and fascinating. Bilger explores a series of Southern sub-cultures (noodlers, squirrel-hunters, rolley holers, coon-hunters, moonshiners, cock-fighters, frog breeders, and soul food afficionados) and presents portraits that remind us what community, obsession, and oddity mean. His prose pops, and the odd facts are hard to top. Abraham Lincoln was a cock fight referee, and Andrew Jackson fought cocks on the carpets of the White House. George Washington is the father of American coon hunt ...more
David Ward
Noodling For Flatheads: Moonshine, Monster Catfish, and Other Southern Comforts by Burkhard Bilger (Scribner 2000) (975.043) is another obscure little volume about what makes the South stand apart. This is a book with chapters about various strictly southern pastimes, pursuits, and traditions. The author writes about making liquor, wrestling giant catfish, coon hunting, cock fighting, Rolley-Hole (look it up), and some foods of choice for some southerners, including squirrel brains and chitterli ...more
What a strange book!
Prior to reading this I had a rather romanticised view of Americas South (well not including the whole slavery issue). After reading this book I am left with an abiding sense of the strangeness of the south. There is one point in the book where the author explains American history..."American history, some say, could be written in terms of whiskey as well as wars and wandering tribes and the result might say more about the American character - about the perennial battle betw
David R.
Jan 28, 2013 David R. rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
Bilger's work is a fun, if odd, pursuit of weird and mostly culinary pursuits in the southeast. Along the way he surveys cockfighting, catfishing, moonshining, and even the eating of squirrel brains. I did not make that up. Bilger does take pains to advise that these "Southern Comforts" are hardly even widespread in the south and in many ways takes a sympathetic approach to all of the odd characters he meets.
The South is both memorialized and drawn in caricature in this bemused but earnest collection of reflections. Some of the more barbaric pastimes ought not have gotten off so lightly (cockfighting, eating pigs and fishing are disgusting, whether or not you were raised doing it), and one might complain that the book reinforces stereotypes through its slightly supercilious tone. It is an interesting story, though,diligently recorded and capably told.
Sep 08, 2009 Melinda rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Fascinating facts about southern ways that will make your hair stand on end and your toes curl. I knew about noodling, but this other stuff is new to me, and I was born about as "deep" as you can go in kudzu land. Interesting and well-researched reading to put on the shelf with Tony Horwitz's Confederates in the Attic.
Dec 22, 2012 John rated it liked it
This is a very interesting exploration of a few of America's mostly southern and mostly rural subcultures that remain out of sight to most of us. Even if we find some the practices a bit extreme, its refreshing to know that political correctness has not yet worn us all down to total bores. However, I think I will stick to catching catfish with a hook.
Jeff Clark
Jul 04, 2016 Jeff Clark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If one can get past the knock on, GASP, The Varsity, this is a fine book of essays about southern pursuits. Hunting raccoons with hounds, raising frogs for profit, fighting cocks, shooting marbles, using your arm to catch large catfish, moonshining, and a musing on southern cuisine (with a rather funny scene at a Cooking Light festival).
Jan 01, 2011 Joe rated it really liked it
Recommended to Joe by: Emily
Great book, and a fun look at southern culture from someone who is appreciative but a slight remove. Not perfect, and with the odd, not-quite-working turn of phrase, but overall I really enjoyed it. I think my favorite chapters were the ones on moonshining and squirrel brains.
Frederick Bingham
Jan 01, 2012 Frederick Bingham rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This books is a description of some illegal or unsavory southern customs. Things discussed include moonshine, squirrel brain eating, cockfighting and hand fishing for catfish.
Oct 07, 2007 Tatiana rated it really liked it
weird food stories from the us. noodling refers to a method of catching catfish in the south. short stories. i really liked it.
Dana rated it it was amazing
Feb 28, 2009
Alison rated it really liked it
Jan 22, 2010
Mark1407 rated it it was ok
Jul 02, 2015
Jessi Tran
Jessi Tran rated it it was ok
Oct 01, 2007
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