Alice Adams (writer)

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Alice Adams
Born 1926
Fredericksburg, Virginia
Died 1999
San Francisco, California
Nationality American
Alma mater Radcliffe College
Known for Writer, Novelist, Professor
Notable work Beautiful Girl (1979)

To See You Again (1982) Return Trips (1985) After You've Gone (1989)

The Last Lovely City (1999)
Spouse(s) Mark Linenthal
File:Alice Adams.jpg
Alice Adams in 1997

Alice Adams (August 14, 1926 – May 27, 1999)[1] was an American novelist, short story writer, and university professor.

Early life

Alice Adams was born in Fredericksburg, Virginia, the only child of Agatha Erskine (Boyd) Adams and Nicholson Barney Adams. Her father was a Spanish professor and her mother an aspiring, but unfulfilled writer. Adams described her family as "three difficult, isolated people." [2] She grew up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She graduated high school at age 15 and then attended Radcliffe College, from which she graduated in 1946 at the age of 19. She married Mark Linenthal, a Harvard student, soon after graduation. They lived in Paris for a year, of which she said "I loved Paris, except I disliked [Mark Linenthal] so much."[2] They then moved to Palo Alto where he attended Stanford University. They moved to San Francisco in 1948, where she found little time to pursue her writing. Their only child, artist Peter Linenthal, was born in 1951.


[3] She sold her short story, Winter Rain, to Charm magazine. Her first novel was Careless Love (1966); in 1969 she began publishing stories in The New Yorker and received growing recognition. Eventually, she published more than 25 stories there. She wrote eleven novels, including the bestseller Superior Women, but is best known and most admired for her short stories, collected in Beautiful Girl (1979), To See You Again (1982), Return Trips (1985), After You've Gone (1989), and The Last Lovely City (1999), as well a in the posthumous selection called The Stories of Alice Adams (2002). She published all short story collections and all but one novel at Knopf Publishing Group. After the War, published posthumously, was published at G. K. Hall & Co..[4]

Adams's place in late-twentieth-century American literature has been earned, writes Christine C. Ferguson, "not only by the skill and deftness of her prose, but also by her challenge to hackneyed dismissal of love's redemptive possibilities. She presents a world where the potential for smart and independent women to have their cake and eat it, too, to enjoy professional and romantic success, stubbornly persists even if not often realized. No romanticist, Adams never flinches from describing all the vagaries and disappointments that afflict sexual and platonic relationships, but neither does she ever permit these descriptions to produce a sense of crushing pessimism."[5] Reviewers described her work as "fusing the sensibilities of Jane Austen and Mary McCarthy." [2] She received numerous awards, including the O. Henry Lifetime Achievement Award and Best American Short Stories Award.[1] Her stories have frequently been anthologized, including in 22 O'Henry Awards collections.[4]

She was a visiting writer at Stanford University, the University of California, Davis, and the University of California at Berkeley.[6]


Adams sometimes followed a pattern she called ABDCE in outlining a short story, which she described to her friend Anne Lamott. "The letters stand for Action, Background, Development, Climax, and Ending. You begin with action that is compelling enough to draw [the reader] in, make us want to know more. Background is where you ... see and know who these people are, how they've come to be together, what was going on before the opening of the story. Then you develop these people, so that we learn what they care most about. The plot – the drama, the actions, the tension – will grow out of that. You move them along until everything comes together in the climax, after which things are different for the main characters, different in some real way. And then there is the ending: what is our sense of who these people are now, what are they left with, what happened, and what did it mean?"[7]

Personal life

During the early 1950s, a psychiatrist advised her to stay married but stop writing; soon after her marriage to Mark Linenthal broke up. She then spent several years as a single mother working as a secretary. Her domestic partner from 1965-1987 was interior designer Robert McNie. She enjoyed close friendships with authors Max Steele, Ella Leffland, and Diane Johnson, and editors Frances Kiernan, William Abrahams, and Victoria Wilson. She spent the majority of her adult life in San Francisco.


Adams died in her sleep at her home in San Francisco, California, in 1999 at the age of 72. Previously that week, she had been treated for heart problems. She is survived by her son, artist Peter Linenthal. [1]


  • Careless Love (1966)
  • Families and Survivors (1975)
  • Listening to Billie (1978)
  • Beautiful Girl (short story collection) (1979)
  • Rich Rewards (1980)
  • To See You Again (short story collection) (1982)
  • Molly's Dog (1983)
  • Superior Women (1984)
  • Return Trips (short story collection) (1985)
  • Roses, Rhododendron: Two Flowers, Two Friends (1987)
  • Second Chances (1988)
  • After You've Gone (short story collection) (1989)
  • Mexico: Some Travels and Some Travelers There, introduction by Jan Morris (1990)
  • Caroline's Daughters (1991)
  • Almost Perfect (1993)
  • A Southern Exposure (1995)
  • Medicine Men (1997)
  • The Last Lovely City (short story collection) (1999)
  • After the War (2000) (posthumous)
  • The Stories of Alice Adams (2002) (posthumous)

External links

"Alice Adams: An Inventory of Her Papers at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center".


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Woo, Elaine (May 29, 1999). "Alice Adams; Novelist, Short-Story Writer (obituary)". Lo s Angeles Times. Retrieved May 21, 2010. line feed character in |work= at position 3 (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Applebome, Peter. "Alice Adams, 72, Writer of Deft Novels". New York Times. New York Times. Retrieved March 11, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. The Lesson unpublished typescript, Alice Adams Papers, Humanities Research Center, University of Texas.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Applebome, Peter. "Alice Adams, Writer of Deft Novels". New York Times. New York Times. Retrieved March 11, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol 234. Detroit: Gale Group, 2001.
  6. Herman, Barbara A. (2006). Flora, Joseph M.; Vogel, Amber; Giemza, Bryan A. (eds.). Alice Adams (1926–1999). Louisiana State University Press. p. 1. Retrieved June 21, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life. Anchor: NY, 1995. p.62.