ALMOST PERFECT, by Alice Adams, the author of seven other novels and four highly praised collections of short stories, deals with a most promising and timely subject, “the effect that work and success can have on a relationship” (as the author has explained in a recent interview). Set, like most of Adams’ fiction, in contemporary San Francisco, ALMOST PERFECT deals chiefly with opposites who first attract only eventually to go their separate ways. Small, dark, dowdy, and self-doubting, Stella Blake, though already in her forties, works at a “provisional” newspaper job until she meets Richard Fallon and has both her apartment and her life “magically transformed” by the “genius” as well as the money of this pauper-turned-prince. Richard, a highly successful free-lance commercial artist, is all that Stella is not: big and blond, self-assured and self-assertive, loved by all (male and female) but, as he himself claims, “not liked a lot.” He also happens to be one of Adams’ most interesting male characters: a manic-depressive who is as restive about his humble working-class origins as he is about his success in advertising. Despite his bravado, he is obsessed by a “fear of things falling apart.” And fall apart they do as Stella’s career takes off (to fame, fortune, and a young lover who also happens to be a doctor). Richard ends up broke, companion to a young gay friend dying of AIDS.
Rendered in short, archly titled chapters and...
(The entire section is 410 words.)