Carla Cohen, the co-founder of the one-of-a-kind bookstore Politics & Prose, died yesterday at 74 from a rare bile-duct cancer. The superb Washington Post obituary paints her as the heart to co-founder Barbara Meade’s head (it also briefly details her life, which began in a six-child Jewish family in Baltimore). My favorite anecdote is when Cohen—politically left, to be sure, but open to thoughtful debate—nixes a coveted bookstore reading by Matt Drudge. “It’s not a question of left or right, conservative or liberal. It’s a question of sleaze versus careful, thoughtful reporting,” she said at the time. “I think he’s a rumormonger and a troublemaker, and I think he’s more interested in self-promotion than in journalism.”
Andrew Silow-Carroll, who got to know Cohen and her husband, David (who survives her, as do her 100-year-old mother and two children), while editing Washington Jewish Week, has further reminiscence. He notes that the two were to be awarded the Abraham Joshua Heschel Award from Jews United for Justice this month; David used to work at Americans for Peace Now.
And Michael Schaffer, the editor of Washington City Paper, observes of whoever ends up buying Politics & Prose (which may be a group that includes Tablet Magazine contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg), “the largest chunk of their investment in the store will not come because its inventory is that large or its Connecticut Avenue storefront is that appealing. It’ll involve buying access to the network of loyal customers Cohen and Meade painstakingly developed.”
As a fiercely proud member of that network, I’ll let my earlier words speak for themselves.
Carla Cohen Dies; Co-founder of D.C. Bookstore Politics & Prose [WP]
Carla Cohen, Washington Bookseller [JustASC]
Carla Cohen R.I.P. [City Paper]
Earlier: Reflections on a Book Paradise