Jenny Odell, the New York Times bestselling author of How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, returns with her “paradigm-destroying” follow-up, Saving Time: Discovering a Life Beyond the Clock. “This grand, eclectic, wide-ranging work is about the various problems that swirl out from dominant conceptions of ‘time,'” writes Tatiana Schlossberg for the Times, “which sometimes means history, sometimes means an individual lifetime, and sometimes means the future.” In a tweet, Odell said the book began as an exploration of the phrase “time is money” and “the relationship of time to power.” While analyzing that relationship, she “found that it intersected with the climate crisis and that both contributed to her existential dread,” Schlossberg explains.
Saving Time “is loosely structured around a daylong trip in the San Francisco Bay Area,” intermingled with discussions of various time scales that “[put] in perspective the asynchronicity of human and planetary time,” Schlossberg continues in the Times.
The phenomena of “individual time pressure and climate dread,” Odell asserts, “share a set of deep roots, and they have more in common than just fear.” Her “narrative logic is purposefully meandering and elliptical,” Schlossberg notes, “a formal underline of the book’s arguments against a linear understanding of time.”
Odell’s “subtle, itinerant study of time feels like an attempt to break through the language of power and find something approaching coexistence,” opined The Boston Globe‘s Annalisa Quinn. “Making time strange to us is one of Odell’s tricks,” She attempts to show that our relationship to “clock-time” is an avoidable phenomenon. While acknowledging people have unequal access to free time, Quinn says Odell “makes the case for a time that belongs to all of us, and the trick is to “be more alive in any given moment” — and to see and answer the life in each other.”
Odell’s newest book is “neither a self-help guide to time management nor a robust cultural history of productivity,” Bekah Waalkes writes in The Washington Post. Saving Time falls somewhere between the two, “a softer polemic” paired with a collection of “conceptual tools” that help readers reconsider their relationship with time. With these tools, “mostly examples from Indigenous, anti-capitalist and anti-colonial thinkers,” Odell shows readers that people’s perception of time has not always been so linear. Still, her writing bounces between citations, which Waalkes says is “sometimes in the service of questions that, while generative, can feel tangential.” The book relies “on so many overlapping frameworks of thinking that it lacks the focus we need to understand what exactly we might do differently,” Waalkes concludes.
The author argues that a “capitalist, Western notion of profit and efficiency has stamped out other, more salutary and less linear measures of time,” Parul Sehgal writes in The New Yorker, “as she draws passionately if vaguely on Indigenous conceptions of time.” While Sehgal admits the author addresses these issues “with acute sensitivity and feeling,” he wonders why “a book so concerned with the looming issues of our day” felt like a “time sink.” “It is not an unusual experience to feel that one’s time has been misused by a book,” Sehgal adds, “but it is novel, and particularly vexing, to feel that one’s time has been misused by a passionate denunciation of the misuse of time.” One of the issues with Saving Time is that the author “is working with ideas that demand careful, persuasive articulation.” Instead, readers “receive a relentless synthesis of other people’s work,” Sehgal asserts.
Saving Time is not supposed to be a typical self-help that tells you how to fix your schedule, says Alexis Burling in the San Francisco Chronicle’s Datebook. Instead, Burling says, “it’s a meticulously researched, mentally stimulating scurry down the time-and-space rabbit hole.” The author’s “rehashing of these often debated topics doesn’t make the book any less constructive or worthy of readers’ attention,” Burling writes. The groundwork laid by other time researchers “gives Odell ample freedom to splinter off and flex her brain muscles in even more meaningful directions.” Burling advises readers to take their time reading the “dense” book since “Odell’s style leans heavily toward stream of consciousness and making high-level, rapid-fire connections that can take a beat to follow.” Saving Time is “worth savoring — even if it takes you a while to complete,” Burling concludes.
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