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The Parrot's Lament :
When Eugene Linden was writing The Parrot's Lament--a book subtitled "And Other True Tales of Animal Intrigue, Intelligence, and Ingenuity"--he enjoyed joking around with his 2-year-old daughter Sofia. "Are you a rutabaga?" "I'm not a rutabaga!" she would giggle. "Are you a waterbug?" "I'm not a waterbug!" Soon, Sofia learned to riff off her father's teasing: "I'm not a rutabaga; Daddy is a rutabaga!" or the truly insightful, "I'm not a rutabaga; the baby is a rutabaga. I'm a waterbug!"
As a passionate and accomplished student of animal intelligence since the '70s, Linden--of course--couldn't resist comparing Sofia's reasoning to that of an ape, puzzling over the cognitive cusp upon which she teetered. And it's this affectionate but knowledgeable analysis, the gentle transition from rutabagas to metacognition and emergent symbolic ability, that makes The Parrot's Lament so satisfying, sentimental but still scientifically solid. The science of consciousness and animal intelligence is contentious, but many in the field--Linden included--deeply suspect that animals know more than we can verify. Linden lays down the science with clarity and good humor, but he leaves it to his animal coauthors, the amorous dolphins, escape-artist orangs, enigmatic cats, and lying hyenas that populate the book's scores of anecdotes, to make his argument. --Paul Hughes [via]