Book Review: 'Noodling for Flatheads: Moonshine, Monster Catfish, and Other Southern Comforts'
Dining on fresh squirrel brains and hogs’ intestines (a.k.a. chitlins), catching catfish with bare fingers as bait (i.e., ”noodling”), and attending bloody cockfights — these are some of the South’s more nauseating customs, as described in the quirky essay collection Noodling for Flatheads: Moonshine, Monster Catfish, and Other Southern Comforts. Oklahoma native Burkhard Bilger is careful to steer clear of a freak show, but the reporting suffers from his own ambivalence. In the most substantial piece, he squirms his way through interviews with squirrel-brain aficionados (who pooh-pooh recent scientific links to mad cow disease). And his otherwise refreshing look at illegal cockfighting rationalizes — weakly — that the rest of us have simply moved our blood lust to the Internet and cineplexes. Still, Bilger has rooted out some fascinating obsessions. B+