A person must lead a significant life to have an obituary on the front page of a major American newspaper. The Washington Post recognized one such individual today, when it announced the news of Carla Cohen's death.
Carla was an entrepreneur, a dreamer, a book store owner. She and a pal, Barbara Meade, opened Politics and Prose a quarter of a century ago and it became, over time, the best little book store in Washington, D.C. That little engine that could not only survived the coming of Borders, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and E-books--it grew into one of the finest independent book stores in the land. And that is saying a lot. For the relatively modest number of Americans who regularly buy books (as witnessed, no doubt, by the caliber of our political discourse), the couple dozen stores like Carla's, scattered around the country, offer variety, sustenance, delight, and surprise.
But Carla was more than just a shop gal. She was one grand liberal dame. I first met her and her husband, David, when I was writing my biography of Tip O'Neill. Their joyous love of political battle, and devotion to progressive causes, was inspirational--whether you shared their politics or not.
Over the years, giving a reading at Politics and Prose became a coveted honor for first-time authors. When "Tip" was published, I reached a private longtime goal by speaking there, and was honored to have Carla introduce me. Standing at the podium, with the C-SPAN cameras rolling, I felt like a rookie outfielder, patrolling the grass at Fenway Park.
When Carla got sick, Politics and Prose was put up for sale. We'll have to hope the new ownership shares her commitment to the magic and joy of books. The store had a great run, and so did Carla. We shall miss her.