Alice Boyd Adams was born in Fredericksburg, Virginia, on August 14, 1926, the daughter of Nicholson Adams, a professor, and Agatha (née Boyd) Adams, a writer. Shortly after her birth, the family moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where Adams spent her first sixteen years. After receiving her B.A. degree from Radcliffe College in 1946, she married Mark Linenthal, Jr. Two years later, they moved to California, and in 1951, their only child, Peter, was born. Their marriage ended in divorce in 1958, following which Adams held a number of part-time clerical, secretarial, and bookkeeping jobs while rearing her son and writing short stories.
It was not until 1969 that she broke into the magazine market when The New Yorker bought her story “Gift of Grass.” Since then, her stories have continued to appear in The New Yorker as well as Redbook, McCall’s, and The Paris Review. In addition, Adams has taught at the University of California at Davis, the University of California at Berkeley, and Stanford University. She died on May 27, 1999, in San Francisco after being treated for heart problems.
Alice Boyd Adams was raised on a farm south of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where her father, Nicholson Barney Adams, taught Spanish at the local university. She graduated from Radcliffe College in 1945 and married Mark Linenthal, Jr., two years later. After spending some time in Paris, where Linenthal studied at the Sorbonne, the couple settled in California, where Linenthal taught English at San Francisco State University while completing his doctoral work for Stanford University. Their son, Peter Adams Linenthal, was born in 1951; Adams and Linenthal were divorced in 1958.
Adams’s first novel, Careless Love, published after the author had turned forty years old, quickly found an enthusiastic audience, particularly among women. The book tells the story of an adventuresome heroine, Daisy Duke Fabbri, who, eager to experience life, leaves a weak husband for a lover and a Latin lothario.
In her next novel, Families and Survivors, Adams chronicles the post-World War II lives of Louisa Calloway and Kate Flichinger, from their friendship as teenagers to the vicissitudes of marriage and divorce. Through Louisa’s hippie daughter the story comes full circle, for she is as different from Louisa as Louisa was from her own mother.
In Listening to Billie, Adams examines intense psychosexual situations. Evan Quarles, a professor and the husband of the heroine, Eliza, falls in love with “the most beautiful boy in the world,” a student in his Cicero class. Unable to cope with the situation, Evan commits suicide, as Eliza’s father had done. When thereupon both she and her stepsister Daria become infatuated with the same “most beautiful boy in the world,” Eliza begins to understand her husband’s obsession and comes to recognize the vulnerability of a person into whose otherwise predictable and dreary life beauty enters. By the 1970’s, Adams’s short stories had found an audience in magazines such as The New Yorker, Redbook, Mademoiselle, and Cosmopolitan. Her first collection of stories, Beautiful Girl, brought her further attention as a feminist chronicler of her times. In these stories, Adams centers on beautiful, intelligent, pained women who examine their pasts and arrive at important conclusions.
Daphne Matthiessen is the protagonist and narrator of Adams’s fourth novel, Rich Rewards. An interior decorator “of sorts,” middle-aged, and divorced many years earlier, Daphne comes to San Francisco to aid her friend Agatha with the...
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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.