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Where's Unimportant Paperback – May 2, 2011
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From a mechanical point of view, Shortell is a professional writer. If there were grammatical errors, I don't remember them. There were a couple of typos, but that's more than forgivable - I find them even in commercially published books.
But Shortell's abilities go far beyond mastery of the complex mechanics of the English language. Where's Unimportant features well-defined characters from literally around the world. He describes their action and their dialog so well, I feel like I recognize them.
The funniest scenes are the main character's competition with his friend in the company over who can waste more of the company's time. The loser--well, let's not give too much away.
Maybe Shortell manages to read so true because the veil of fiction is nonexistent. The main character IS the author. Not just symbolically--the character's name is Daniel Shortell.
The title, "where's unimportant," has a dual meaning, but don't worry: Shortell doesn't get cute with his literary abilities. The story is simple, clear, sometimes amusing, sometimes depressing, sometimes inspiring.
On one level, "where's unimportant" means the character/author feels the same disconnection from others no matter where he is. He does not feel at home in his own community, has only one friend at work, continually suspects the motivations of locals when he travels to China, Malaysia or Africa and has a terrible time communicating with his own wife.
The story prompts some big questions, too. For example, can we consider a modern city a "community" anymore? How much do we have in common with our neighbours? Is it enough?
But Shortell does not waste time philosophizing. Where's Unimportant focuses on the particular, and in that way, like all great fiction, it's universal.
The question that I ask and always postpone is "what is it that I want from life?" is circled around in the book extensively by pointing to the things that I do not want in life as an answer. I agree with his views on corporate America. Unfortunately, the reality is that people work their ass off for 30-40 years hoping to enjoy 10-15 years of retirement. But God only knows whether it is going to be good retirement or bad. I wish it were the other way around in life: we would enjoy our retirement benefits for 30-40 years and then work our asses off for 10-15 years, the way our consumer oriented society works -we pay with a credit card, enjoy products and then pay that off!
The conversation during the lunch with Uri is the best part. The book ends like an upward slope with questions that reader finds in himself. We all I guess go through such emotional moments in one way or another - the book gives exactly the one that you do enjoy reading but you do not want to experience.
This psychological story isn't the fastest paced, nor is it a 'perfect' book, but it does create numerous images which linger well after the story is finished.
Daniel Shortell has succeeded in creating a memorable work.
Reading this novel feels as if you are the unwilling prisoner of a very depressed mind. Mr. Shortell tells a story dealing with unhappiness fought back with flashbacks, a multi-drug cocktail, and ultimately, an alcohol-induced rage. You can't help but feel for the character, as he is sadly desperate in a way that too many can relate. With a nod to "Big Brother" and the electronic age we live in, Where's Unimportant satirizes Corporate America, plays into our hopes of achieving the American Dream, and pokes fun at widely available prescription antidepressant "fixes". While the story seemed slow at times, Jacks eventual breakdown lends to an unexpected and imaginative ending.
(Written by Charlene, a Literary R&R blog review team member)