Sam Anderson on Asad Raza in the New York Times:
A few words about Asad, who appears in the essay only as a shadowy figure: my anonymous "friend." In reality, he was a huge part of my trip: driver, companion, interpreter, guinea pig, canary in the coal mine. Asad and I met 10 years ago in grad school, where I found him to be so intimidatingly smart, so effortlessly fluent about esoteric subjects that I’d never even heard of, that I almost dropped out of the program after two weeks. I stuck with it, though, and eventually Asad and I became friends. He's still the most naturally critical person I know - not in the narrow sense of being negative about things, but in the large and exciting sense of taking things apart, analyzing them, concocting theories. Walking around with him feels like carrying a philosopher in your pocket.
Because we studied Dickens together at school, and because Asad lives in London now, it seemed only natural for me to bully him into coming to Dickens World. He agreed and, true to form, kept up a brilliant running commentary about everything we saw.
In my favorite picture from the trip, Asad stands on top of a very high railing in order to peer ecstatically over the wall of Miss Havisham's garden, still discoursing.
Asad was on fire, interpretively, for the entire trip. Only Dickens World, it turned out, could make his critical motor grind to a halt. As soon as we entered the park, it was like he’d been shot by an arrow. You could feel the energy draining out of him.