cover image Saving Time: Discovering a Life Beyond the Clock

Saving Time: Discovering a Life Beyond the Clock

Jenny Odell. Random House, $28.99 (400p) ISBN 978-0-593-24270-4

Odell follows up How to Do Nothing with an electric call to reject the quantitative view of time in favor of a more expansive, less linear understanding that fosters interpersonal connection and social and ecological justice. Arguing that “an overemphasis on fungible time upholds an impoverished view of what time and labor are,” Odell finds the historical origins of this perspective in the Protestant work ethic and scientific time management principles promoted at the turn of the 20th century, which have evolved into technologies intended to speed up and surveil workers. She criticizes market-based and individualist solutions to the shared problem of limited time, arguing that collective, policy-based approaches are needed to target structural injustices that fuel burnout and disempowerment. Instead of “hoarding” time, Odell advises, one should “garden” it by creating relationships of mutual aid and understanding and fostering meaningful connections and experiences. Heady sections on “recover[ing] the contingencies of the past and the present” are interleaved with lyrical observations about natural and man-made environments in San Francisco’s Bay Area. Throughout, Odell encourages readers to resist “declinism,” which forecloses action by taking a terrible future for granted, and fully inhabit the present as the moment between past and future where change can happen. This is a moving and provocative game changer. Agent: Caroline Eisenmann, Frances Goldin Literary. (Mar.)