Alice Adams, Author . Knopf $30 (640p) ISBN 978-0-375-41285-1

In her long and prolific career, Adams produced five collections of stories (as well as 11 novels). Now, three years after her death, Knopf is republishing 53 of those deft and delicate stories in one volume, reprising Adams's career. Readers already in love with Adams will be pleased to re-encounter—and those new to her pleased to discover—the seemingly offhand openings that carry the reader deep into the story, the swift characterizations, the effortless shifts in point of view and, of course, the almost casual but dazzling sentences. Most often the protagonists are women, usually negotiating love. But Adams also wrote affectingly about mothers and daughters; the seeds for the many mother/daughter novels of the '80s and '90 must lie in her stories. Adams might have been the first to write about the hippie mother going from one abusive boyfriend to another ("By the Sea"); in the ravishing "Roses, Rhododendrons," a girl befriends the Farrs, a family with high-class pretensions, while her envious mother watches from afar. Adams often wrote about the privileged and famous, portraying actresses, concert pianists, even heiresses with deliciously messy lives. But she wrote with an awareness that privilege comes and goes and is often hard-won. Taken together, these stories betray the changing mores of the past half-century; taken in sequence, they trace the changes in the American short story over the past 40 years, some of those changes wrought by Adams herself. Adams could have been characterizing her own work when she described the Farrs' yard in "Roses, Rhododendrons": "The effect was rich and careless, generous and somewhat mysterious. I was deeply stirred." As will be her readers. (Nov. 12)

Forecast:Most of Adams's story collections are out of print, so this volume is well-timed and will likely become a backlist standard.

Reviewed on: 09/02/2002
Release date: 11/01/2002
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