T. Coraghessan Boyle, 74MFA, 77PhD, is one of this generation's most respected and gifted writers, whose work has drawn comparisons to Mark Twain for its deft and biting social commentary.
Boyle grew up in the small town of Peekskill, New York, and earned a B.A. in English and history from the State University of New York at Potsdam in 1968. He then attended the University of Iowa, completing an M.F.A. degree in creative writing at the Iowa Writers' Workshop in 1974 and a Ph.D. in 19th century British literature in the Department of English in 1977.
A prolific writer, Boyle has published 11 novels and eight short story collections. His novels include World's End (1987, winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction), The Tortilla Curtain (1995, winner of France's Prix Médicis Étranger for best foreign novel of the year), After the Plague (2001), Drop City (2003, National Book Award finalist), The Inner Circle (2004), and Talk Talk (2006). One of America's most accomplished short story writers, Boyle counts among his published collections Descent of Man (1979), Greasy Lake (1985), If the River was Whiskey (1989), T.C. Boyle Stories (1998), Tooth and Claw (2005), and The Human Fly (2005, young adult literature). In addition to these critically acclaimed volumes, his stories regularly appear in major American magazines, including the New Yorker, Harper's, Esquire, the Atlantic Monthly, and Playboy.
Boyle's work has been recognized by the Academy of Arts and Sciences and through awards that include creative writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1977) and a Guggenheim (1988). Boyle can also lay claim to the PEN/Malamud Prize, the PEN/West Literary Prize, the Commonwealth Gold Medal for Literature, six O. Henry Awards for short fiction, and multiple Best American Short Story awards.
Known for his often satiric characterization, Boyle is also recognized for the widely ranging time frames and locales in which his fictional stories are set, and for the diverse issues he addresses. He has described himself as "...not only idea-driven, but also someone who harkens back to an earlier era when writers had more of a social consciousness and tried to examine the larger picture of society."
Renowned for his thorough research before beginning a new work, Boyle has, in the opinion of some literary critics, given new impetus to the historical novel by spinning bizarre and funny yarns around historical events. His novel The Road to Wellville (1993) features real-life character John Harvey Kellogg, inventor of the corn flake and peanut butter, as a quack doctor at a turn-of-the century health spa. In 1994, The Road to Wellville was made into a film starring Anthony Hopkins, John Cusack, and Matthew Broderick.
Boyle has taught fiction writing at the University of Southern California since 1978, where he holds a named position as distinguished professor of English and is a popular, highly engaged teacher.
T.C. Boyle has said that he came to the Iowa Writers' Workshop because "all of my heroes had gone there or had taught there." Today, he has become another literary hero—and one of the University of Iowa's most distinguished alumni.
Since 1963, the University of Iowa has annually recognized accomplished alumni and friends with Distinguished Alumni Awards. Awards are presented in seven categories: Achievement, Service, Hickerson Recognition, Faculty, Staff, Recent Graduate, and Friend of the University.