In an interview with Neil Feineman in Story Quarterly, Alice Adams remarked that she preferred writing short stories to writing novels, which may explain why her short fiction has earned more critical favor than her longer works have. In all, Adams completed six collections of short stories, the last of which, The Last Lovely City, was published shortly before her death in 1999. Adams’s short stories often portray themes of love, loss, and uncertainty, all of which are present in the title story of her final collection.
The title story shares its setting with most of the other twelve stories in the collection. The last lovely city is San Francisco, and for the main character in ‘‘The Last Lovely City,’’ it represents his past, good and bad, and everything that has passed by him. Adams lived most of her adult life in San Francisco, so she experienced the city in a variety of ways. It is fitting that ‘‘The Last Lovely City’’ and most of the other stories in the collection are set in the city Adams loved best.