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San Francisco Chronicle Book Review - Inventing Victor

Jennifer Bannan's short story collection Inventing Victor
is mercilessly funny domestic comedy so biting that it is sometimes difficult to laugh along with her. In the title story, an adolescent Cuban-American girl invents an imaginary lover. In writing about this common teenage manipulation she displays an honesty as sensitive as it is intense.

Review by Jules Siegel. Nov. 9, 2003

Emerging Writer’s Forum - Inventing Victor

Carnegie Mellon University has found another winning short fiction author in Jennifer Bannan.  Her debut collection, Inventing Victor, explores the short story form as Bannan writes of many different topics, relationships, and types of people.

Review by Dan Wickett. May 18, 2003

Kirkus Reviews - Inventing Victor (starred review)

Eleven stories demonstrating a broad imagination and a chameleon's ability to leap seamlessly from culture to culture, subject to subject.

In the title piece, a Cuban high-school student invents a boyfriend to keep pace with her girlfriend, only to have the friend's romance emulate the dramas of the imagined one. "La Perche" portrays a restaurant, born of the inspiration of a fat man and a bulimic woman, thriving on the themes of tragedy and eating disorders. In "The Details of Women," a man is shocked when a girlfriend from wilder days in Paris intrudes on his suburban middle years, but this traumatic nostalgia might very well turn into redemption. The protagonist of "Make It Good" decides that the only way to finally lasso her reluctant-to-commit beau is to apply the techniques of the public relations firm for which they both work. A group of Gen-Xers who pride themselves on a "movement of no movement" threatens to unravel when one of its members begins to excel at their favorite pastime ("Take the Slackers Bowling"). In "The Bruise on Jupiter," a Jewish woman struggles with her identity and her conscience as the punishment for having injured her own children fails to quell her desire to bear more. Newcomer Bannan consistently display a rare literary fearlessness in the subject matter she tackles, stepping far outside the boundaries of personal experience and refusing to be pigeonholed in either content or style. The result is a vast portrait of a truly diverse America that is absurd, ridiculous, human, and spreading (in "Comfort Isn't Everything") to a Russia where you can sail past coffeebars with "all the ingredients in stock, past outlet malls where the air conditioning was just right. Cineplexes with 20 screens showing all the latest releases."

A large new talent that can go anywhere it wants.

Creative Loafing - Inventing Victor

"Thoroughly modern misanthropy"
The decade we're living in now may not yet know its name (the 2000s? the Ohs?), but Jennifer Bannan knows its voice. In her debut collection of short stories Inventing Victor (Carnegie Mellon University Press), Bannan offers an apt indictment of our culture of uncertainty, where family ties, budding friendships and even bodily functions are roadblocks to fulfillment. "La Perche," the first story and one of the best, finds two friends who give their swank Miami restaurant an extreme gimmick: a public purging room where stuffed patrons go to enjoy meals a second time around. Not many writers would even touch a topic as charged as eating disorders, but Bannan serves up a delicious little satire that's surprisingly easy to swallow.

Review by Tray Butler

Pittsburgh City Paper - Inventing Victor
Oct. 2, 2003

"Long Story Short"
Fourteen years after publishing her first short story, local author Jennifer Bannan marks the publication of her first short-story collection, Inventing Victor, by talking about writing, about being American, and why book tours go better with friends.
…Jennifer Bannan says the first great writer she knew was a neighbor in her hometown of West Miami; when they were 8, she and Alicia even wrote a play together. Her childhood friend’s influence was still reverberating when Bannan came north to study creative and professional writing at Carnegie Mellon University in 1987. Indeed, Alicia inspired "Inventing Victor," the title story in Bannan’s first short-story collection, a wide-ranging, often comic series of narratives exploring everything from family dynamics ("We Said Mother") and cross-cultural Internet dating ("Comfort Isn’t Everything") to Generation X ("Take the Slackers Bowling") and closeted gay parenthood ("Fear of Heaven"). Settings range from a chi-chi vomitorium ("La Perche") and the world of modern PR ("Make It Good") to the cloistered world of Hasidic Jews ("The Bruise on Jupiter").

The Sharon Herald (Sharon, PA) - Inventing Victor

The stories in Inventing Victor are told from a variety of points of view. This is true because the characters who do the narration, who tell their stories, are such a wild and eclectic coterie of creations. . .Read this book to understand more about your children or grandchildren; read this book to understand more about the direction of the short story in America.

Review by Dr. James A. Perkins. Nov. 9, 2003