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Asa, as I Knew Him Paperback – April 19, 1994
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From Publishers Weekly
This is an exceptionally well-written, polished, curious novel, ostensibly about the love affair between the passionate Jewish narrator, Dinah Sachs, and her WASPish boss, Asa Thayer, a blond, soulless man whose people "think their great-great-grandfathers sprang fully evolved on these shores, products of the Mayflower's timber and New Hampshire rock." The account of the actual affair is sketchy and intriguing, and almost two-thirds of the book is devoted to a description of Asa's teenaged friendship with and attraction to Reuben Sola, a handsome, daredevil, Jewish esthete who dies by accident while climbing a bridge for the thrill of it. For all the author's observations about Asa and the attempt to use Reuben's life and death to explain Asa's distance from others, Asa remains a blurred figure. This is unfortunate: the reader would like to understand him beyond cultural cliches, and the author might have offered a more effective portrait had she focused on Dinah and Asa rather than Reuben and Asa.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Profound, surprising, and ultimately enlightening . . . Kaysen is a gifted and potent author." --Los Angeles Times
"Susanna Kaysen possesses a lyrical wryness that splendidly evokes . . . all the scents and unnamed sadnesses that lay claim to memory and give us reason to go on." --Boston Globe
"It is a tribute to Kaysen's considerable talent that we easily believe in all her inventions." --The New York Times Book Review
"Luminous." --San Francisco Chronicle
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Asa, As I Knew Him, is the story told by Dinah, still in love and still struggling to understand her failed love affair with Asa. Unable to share the details of his life, she creates her own history of him: how he grew up from privileged teenagerhood into the man "who was born to stomp on [her] heart." But Dinah is not pathetic or full of self-pity; her rendering of Asa is compelling and intelligent.
Unrequited love is a topic that I usually skip over -- too often the author mistakes pathos for depth of feeling. Kaysen's heroine is utterly believable: I couldn't put the book down.