Burkhard Bilger's beautifully written, wonderfully funny and movingly nostalgic book explores the surviving (and often dying) folk traditions of the American South, from the eating of squirrel brains in Kentucky, cock-fighting in Oklahoma, frog-ranching in Georgia and coon-hunting all over, to the noodling for flatheads (fishing for catfish, using your fingers as bait and your arm as a hook) of the title. Caught between the possibility of survival through commercialisation or gradual decline (or in the case of squirrel-brain-eating, threatened by fears of Mad Squirrel Disease), many of these activities will be lucky to survive far into the new century. Burkhard Bilger's book is a wonderful elegy, hilarious, fascinating and touching, to a threatened tradition of American eccentricity and independence, but it is also a celebration of the survival of local folk culture in the era of the global triumph of Nike, Barbie and Coca-Cola, a survival that persists in America's own back yard. Narrative non-fiction at its best.
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Burkhard Bilger is a features editor at Discover and an adjunct professor of science writing at New York University.Review:
"His book is subtitled Moonshine, Monster Catfish, and Other Southern Comforts. You wouldn't want to miss a one of 'em." The Toronto Star "A five-star, Bill Bryson-style exploration of the habits, customs, traditions and often-bizarre obsessions of the American South" Arena "Bilger never judges the roughnecks who show him the hidden crafts of the Old South but vividly builds up a touching picture of this dying breed" The List
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