Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Alice Boyd Adams was born August 14, 1926, in Fredericksburg, Virginia, the only child of Nicholson B. Adams, a professor, and Agatha Erskine Boyd Adams, a writer. She entered Radcliffe College at the age of sixteen and graduated with a B.A. in 1946. She married Mark Linenthal, Jr., a university professor, in 1947.
Adams relocated to California with her husband, who had found a teaching job at San Francisco State University beginning in the early 1950’s. Adams would base many of her novels and short stories in and around San Francisco. The couple’s son, Peter, was born in 1951. Holding down various jobs such as a clerk, a secretary or a bookkeeper, following her divorce from Linenthal in 1958, Adams was the character later portrayed in her own books and stories: She was an intelligent, vibrant woman with much to offer the world, struggling to find her talent and voice.
Adams’s first short story, “Winter Rain” appeared in Charm in July, 1959. She has been described by writer Mary Gaitskill as having “intense elegance” and “grace,” and possessing “an organic mental integrity.” Later in Adams’s career, she taught creative-writing courses at Stanford University and the University of California, Davis, and Berkeley. She was always supportive of younger writers.
(The entire section is 205 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
IntroductionNobody understood unfulfilled dreams quite like Alice Adams did. Her work was often defined by everyday people whose lives did not turn out the way they had hoped or expected. Adams’ perspective was based on experience. She toiled in unfulfilling jobs and spent much of her early adulthood in an unhappy marriage. One of her best-beloved stories, “Beautiful Girl,” is a case in point: it focuses on a past-her-prime beauty queen who has lapsed into alcoholism. As “Beautiful Girl” attests, Adams was keenly aware of the struggles and disappointments of women. Her characters could be difficult to like, but they were based in the real-life dreams and real-world failures faced by many American women, including Adams herself.
- Though born in Virginia, Adams studied at Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, graduating at the end of the Second World War.
- Adams was widely recognized for her short stories and won the prestigious O. Henry Award 19 times.
- Her prolific output as a writer frequently puts her in the company of other authors with lengthy bibliographies, such as John Updike and Joyce Carol Oates.
- A divorcee raising a child on her own, Adams was over 40 years old before she found success (and permanent employment) as a writer.
- Adams’ stories were often drawn from her own life. Her experiences as a secretary formed the basis the novel Medicine Men.
All Resources by Category
Alice Adams was born in Fredericksburg, Virginia, on August 14, 1926, the only child of Nicholas Barney and Agatha Erskine. Adams was reared in North Carolina, where her father was a professor of Spanish. Her early years were troubled due to a strained relationship with her mother and the dissolution of her parents’ marriage. Upon completing high school, she enrolled in Radcliffe College, where she pursued her interest in writing. She graduated in 1946 and went to work briefly for a New York publisher. The following year, she married Mark Linenthal, Jr. The newlyweds then spent a year in Paris, where Linenthal studied before accepting a teaching position in California in 1948. In 1951, the couple had their only child, Peter. Unfortunately, the marriage was unhappy, and Adams and her husband divorced in 1958.
After the divorce, Adams struggledin several secretarial jobs and continued to write. In 1959, her first published story, ‘‘Winter Rain,’’ appeared in Charm, and in 1969 she had a story published in The New Yorker. This story, ‘‘Gift of Grass,’’ also won Adams the prestigious O. Henry Award for short fiction. In the following years, Adams earned acclaim for her short stories and novels. In 1982, she was awarded the O. Henry Special Award for Continuing Achievement, an honor bestowed only on Adams, Joyce Carol Oates, and John Updike. Adams continued writing up until her death in 1999. Her final collection of stories,...
(The entire section is 344 words.)
Biography (Short Stories for Students)
Alice Adams, award-wining author of hundreds of short stories and several novels, had to overcome continual challenges to her writing career until she finally published her first novel at the age of forty. Born on August 14, 1926, to southern parents, Nicholson and Agatha Adams, in the then-small town of Fredericksburg, Virginia, Adams soon discovered that in her generation, women, like children, were to be seen but not heard. Despite the fact that she managed to be accepted at the prestigious Radcliffe College at the age of sixteen, she was advised by school professionals to give up her attempts to become a writer and instead focus on getting married. Adams followed this advice rather halfheartedly and ended up unhappily wedded to Mark Linenthal Jr. one year after she graduated from Radcliffe with a bachelor of arts degree. The marriage was unsuccessful, as were Adams’s attempts to get published during those years. The marriage did, however, produce the couple’s only child, Peter, born in 1951. But it would not be until after her divorce in 1958 that Adams would finally achieve her dream of becoming a published writer.
After struggling through a difficult marriage and divorce, Adams’s life did not get much easier. She was a single mother who had to find a way of paying the bills and putting food on the table. Although she continued to write, she could not support herself and her child without taking on menial jobs. While working as a secretary...
(The entire section is 535 words.)