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Book Review :: Saving Time by Jenny Odell

Saving Time by Jenny Odell book cover image

Guest Post by Kevin Brown

Fittingly, I read Saving Time by Jenny Odell during my Spring Break and during the shift to Daylight Savings Time. The latter exemplifies Odell’s critique of time as a construct, especially one that portrays time as a series of boxes to fill. She sees such approaches to time as problematic in two ways: 1) they help create the idea that there is an inexorable future coming; 2) they reinforce systems of control. Odell draws from a variety of subjects—apocalyptic language, incarceration, productivity, climate change, and geography, for example—to reveal how those in power use time to reinforce hierarchies, often based on race, ability, or gender, but especially socioeconomics. Odell questions the assumptions embedded in such systems, such as whether one person’s hour is actually equal to another person’s, an idea that seems to be logically true, but that Odell shows to be nothing but another construct. During my Spring Break, Odell might be pleased to see, I’m not using my time productively, at least not as typical Western societies see productivity. Instead, I’m engaging in creativity for its own sake, including writing this review. Her book isn’t self-help or time management, so readers shouldn’t expect tips for living, but they should expect Odell to help them see time—and, thus, the world—differently.

Saving Time by Jenny Odell. Random House, March 2023.

Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite or kevinbrownwrites.weebly.com/.

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