Duck, By Victoria de Rijke

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The Independent Culture

After Rat, Tiger, Shark and even Fly, Duck seems a slightly unlikely topic for Reaktion's excellent animal series. But de Rijke does an exemplary job of exploring aspects of "this cheery, watery little creature" from its violent sex life (one female may be pursued by 40 males) to the canard pressé sold at Tour d'Argent in Paris.

Anthropomorphic ducks range from an Aztec god and Beatrix Potter's Jemima (an Aylesbury) to Disney's Donald, possibly based on an irascible executive called George Drake. As de Rijke points out, "We wear it, sleep under it, write with it, eat it ... duck is the finest use-metaphor on the planet, and lord love a duck for that."