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.
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Daniel Shortell on Goodreads