Alice Adams, 72, a longtime short story writer for the New Yorker and a novelist whose 1984 book, "Superior Women," became a bestseller, died May 27 at her home in San Francisco. She had a heart ailment.

Ms. Adams, the author of 10 novels and five short story collections, was described by Victoria Wilson, her editor at Knopf, as "just so deft" with "such a wonderful touch." Wilson went on to say, "She was a master of condensing so much, with so much resonance, into a short form."

Some reviewers, however, found her writing mannered and humorless.

One more novel, "After the War," will be published next year.

Ms. Adams was born in Fredericksburg, Va., and grew up in Chapel Hill, N.C., where her father taught Spanish at the University of North Carolina. She graduated from Radcliffe College at age 19.

Her first novel, "Careless Love," was met with mixed reviews, but after publishing her first story for the New Yorker in 1969, Ms. Adams became one of the magazine's most distinctive voices.

Her 1975 novel, "Families and Survivors," about a woman who moves from the South to San Francisco, as Ms. Adams herself did, established her as an important literary presence. "Listening to Billie" followed in 1978, then came the short story collection "Beautiful Girl." "Superior Women," which traced the lives of five Radcliffe women, became a bestseller.

Known for her wry perspective on life, Ms. Adams once ruminated on the difficulty of writing as one ages: "Some smart person once said that what happens is your critical standards rise, and your talent does not necessarily increase in a commensurate way."