Cohen, Edward Stone 1937–1999
Cohen, Edward Stone 1937–1999
PERSONAL: Born 1937, in MA; died, 1999; married; wife's name Fritzi.
CAREER: Environmental activist, hotelier. Owner of the Tabard Inn, Washington, DC, and Moby Dick, Nahcotta, WA.
Firewater: A Green Novel, Akashic Books (New York, NY), 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: Edward Stone Cohen's only book, Firewater: A Green Novel, was published posthumously and described by its publisher as "an environmental suspense novel." The story is set in Washington State, one of the locations where Cohen, during his lifetime, owned a hotel.
Along the shores of the coastal town, contaminated shellfish are dying, not far from a federally run genetics lab run by the Nazi-like Urbanchuk who sexually harasses Rhoda, one of the narrators. The main character is Chief Sheldrake, a proud Native American presidential candidate, with pronounced sexual appetites, running on environmental and human issues.
Sheldrake, who appears in the third person, is bombarded by the twin evils of government and big business with giant toxic clouds called tarbabies, superbacteria, and genetically mutated, automatic weapons-carrying dwarfs with oversized genitalia, all of which are constant distractions to his run for the White House.
Reviewing Firewater for the Portland Mercury Online, Erik Henriksen stated that there is no such genre as environmental suspense, and added that unlike the claim on the book's cover, the story "isn't 'brutally funny,' nor does it produce 'belly laughs.' It is brutal, but in a vicious, painful way, and it does produce something to do with my belly, that being a strong desire to eviscerate myself."
Justin Bauer wrote in a Citypaper.net review that "Cohen's sincerity as an environmentalist comes through" but "the values Cohen clearly sees as heroic come off flaky and mixed up, like month-old granola."
In a review for Splendid online, Jenn Sikes called Sheldrake "an Indian Bill Clinton" and noted that in this novel, Cohen "bares much anger toward the political state. He's gifted enough to make old metaphors do new tricks, and here, his constant prurient references reflect the Earth's condition. He sees it dying as swiftly as the salmonids tagged into futility by Rhoda…. It's in such bad shape it needs pills to pop out its shit. The book's thrust is to humorously comment upon the moral state informing our environmental choices. Cohen mixes in moral lessons, peeing a little wisdom by the trees or lakes his characters pass."
Sikes found Sheldrake to be a sympathetic character and an underdog to root for as he outwits the federals, but she wondered why Cohen gives his characters flaws unnecessary to the story, including his portrayal of Sheldrake as a heavy drinker, which she said "seems like a prop, intended to allow his Indians to talk about themselves in a way white people—his most likely readers—will immediately understand."
In Library Journal Jim Dwyer felt that inconsistencies in the text and the frequent references to bodily functions may "put off some readers, but others will be delighted by his wild romp."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Library Journal, April 1, 2003, Jim Dwyer, review of Firewater: A Green Novel, p. 128.
Citypaper.net (Philadelphia, PA), http://www.citypaper.net/ (June 26, 2003), Justin Bauer, review of Firewater.
Portland Mercury Online, http://portlandmercury.com/ (July 24, 2003), Erik Henriksen, review of Firewater.
Splendid, http://www.splendidezine.com/ (February 8, 2004), Jenn Sikes, review of Firewater.