Jenny Odell’s “Saving Time: Discovering a Life Beyond the Clock” is an impressive exploration of our relationship with time in the context of contemporary societal and environmental issues. Her insightful exploration of the nature and structure of time offers a distinct perspective that challenges the conventional paradigms surrounding this critical yet intangible concept. This review aims to distill the essence of her complex narrative, casting light on her most significant discussions and revelations.
The book commences with Odell’s discussion of time’s interaction with climate change. She provocatively addresses the climate crisis’s impact on our perception of time, raising questions about our relationship with the past, present, and future. Odell’s portrayal of time as a fluid concept is brilliantly captured in her narrative structured around a daylong trip in the San Francisco Bay Area.
By juxtaposing the urgency of the on-demand economy against the eternity of the coastline’s geologic history, she creates a thought-provoking discourse on the perception of time and its scale.
One of the critical aspects of Odell’s work is her challenge to the deterministic view of time. By building upon her experiences during the COVID-19 lockdowns, she brings forth the notion of time as an elusive, fluid construct that disrupts our familiar notions and opens up new possibilities. This aspect of her work provides an introspective lens, which encourages the readers to reevaluate their understanding of time and consider alternative, non-linear perspectives.
The book’s unique structure, resembling a stream-of-consciousness narrative, is a tool Odell uses to eloquently present her evolving ideas. Some readers may find it challenging to draw concrete conclusions from this style, but it aligns seamlessly with the book’s central theme of challenging static perceptions of time. Her narrative serves as a conversation that invites readers to engage in a thought-provoking exploration of time, acknowledging its uncontrollable nature, and embracing the generative possibilities it brings.
Odell’s examination of time as a tool of domination and her challenge to the association between time and money is profound and transformative. She adeptly delves into the history of time-keeping systems, exposing the roots in the 19th-century industry, and draws attention to the harsh temporal discipline faced by factory workers. By tackling contemporary issues such as workplace surveillance and the commodification of leisure, she prompts readers to reconsider their relationships with time in their everyday lives.
Her work also touches on climate anxiety, an increasingly prevalent feeling in society. Odell’s observations on the perpetual rush against the clock and the anxiety surrounding climate change are perceptive and resonate with many in the contemporary era.
Through her reflections, she invites her readers to form a less painful and more meaningful relationship with time. However, some aspects of the book may be seen as less satisfying. The overwhelming presentation of loss, without proposing imaginative alternatives, can be off-putting for some readers. Moreover, the sudden incorporation of intersectionality, while crucial, seems abrupt and lacks a smooth integration with the rest of the narrative.
Despite these minor shortcomings, “Saving Time: Discovering a Life Beyond the Clock” offers a rich and transformative discourse on the concept of time. Odell invites her readers to challenge their preconceptions and encourages them to embrace a more liberatory perception of time. As such, her book is a notable contribution to philosophical discourse, instilling lasting impact and profound insights into contemporary existence.
Research Scholar and Academic; Ph.D. in Political Science at the University of Pisa, Italy. Dr. Usman has participated in various national and international conferences and published 30 research articles in international journals.