"An author values a compliment even when it comes from a source of doubtful competency." --Mark Twain
If an author values a compliment regardless of the source, imagine the value when the source is The Mark Twain House & Museum, the compliment is the inaugural Mark Twain American Voice in Literature Award, and the prize is $25,000.
T.C. Boyle accepted the compliment --and the honors-- during a ceremony at Lincoln Center on Monday, September 26 for The Harder They Come (Ecco/HarperCollins, 2015). David Baldacci, Twain House trustee, established and funded the award that he felt was long overdue to honor Twain's literary legacy. Twain house trustee Roger Michel funded and hosted the gala in the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse against a backdrop of the New York City skyline with some 75 guests in attendance.
Although the Mark Twain House is located in Hartford, Connecticut, celebrating in New York seemed appropriate. Twain lived in the city on and off during his career, visiting for the first time at the age of seventeen. The award honors Twain's uniquely American voice, and the ceremony echoed that with a nod to Tom Sawyer and an acoustic Bluegrass performance.
After accepting the award, Boyle mesmerized the audience with an animated reading from The Harder They Come.
The gala included the performance of a scene from SAWYER, a play by Noah Altshuler, playwright in residence at the Twain House and a musical performance by Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, the most award-winning band in Bluegrass. Vincent was joined onstage by Altshuler and special guest Ashley Campbell, daughter of Country Music legend Glen Campbell.
Guests received an autographed copy of Boyle's award-winning book, and the chatter among attendees included speculation as to which 2016 publication would win the award next year. The Mark Twain House is accepting submissions for the next award cycle though December 1st.
L-R: Joel Freedman, President of the Board of Trustees at the Mark Twain House; David Baldacci, Trustee; T. C. Boyle; Roger Michel, Trustee; Noah Altshuler, Playwright in Residence; Cindy Lovell, Executive Director