REVIEW: In Praise of Slowness: How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed
by Carl Honoré

Reviewed by Eileen E. Schell

"There is more to life than increasing its speed."

Are you fed up with the pace of your life? Wondering if slowing down might be the answer? Canadian journalist Carl Honoré begins his investigation into the idea of slowness, speed, and time with a story of his own obsession with saving time. One day while impatiently waiting to catch a flight from Rome to London, he came across an advertisement for a one-minute bedtime story. Attracted initially to the advertisement's promise of streamlining the bedtime story ritual with his two-year old son, Honoré begins to question his obsession with saving time. This initial story sparks his investigation into the time bind that permeates our culture. His questions are three-fold: "Why are we always in such a rush? What is the cure for time-sickness [a term coined in 1982 by Dr. Larry Dossey to describe the idea that we must live and work at a faster pace]? Is it possible, or even desirable, to slow down?"

What follows is an investigation into the global slow movement, a worldwide movement that challenges our obsession with controlling and managing time to ensure the greatest possible productivity and profit. Honoré likens the global slow movement to the anti-globalization movement, arguing that both critique and seek alternatives to fast capitalism, which offers a one-way ticket to burnout, for the planet and people living on it. Both movements want to help people live, work, and consume at a more reasonable, humane and socially just pace.

Throughout the book, two philosophical concepts - Fast and Slow - anchor Honoré's analysis of time: "Fast is busy, controlling, aggressive, hurried, analytical, stressed, superficial, impatient, active, quantity-over-quality. Slow is the opposite: calm, careful, receptive, still, intuitive, unhurried, patient, reflective, quality-over-quantity. It is about making real and meaningful connections - with people, culture, work, food, everything."

The first two chapters are devoted to narrating the problems of living in the "fast lane": compromised families, health, work, and the environment. The bulk of the book addresses ways to achieve slowness through lifestyle changes. Carlo Petrini, founder of the slow food movement, is one featured figure whose philosophy has influenced much of the thinking about living at a decelerated pace. Although the slow food movement is about cultivating, cooking, and consuming food at a slow pace, it is a philosophy that reaches into other arenas of life: designing livable, sustainable cities, exercise and medicine; cultivating meaningful sex and relationships; working less and working smarter; rest and leisure, and raising an "unhurried" child.

Honoré is clear, however, that he is not declaring war on speed or taking a Luddite stand against technology; rather he advocates finding balance and living at what "musicians call the tempo giusto - the right speed."

One area not sufficiently addressed in the book is that of politics and public life. The emphasis throughout is on individuals making alternative personal choices, but one wonders what the "slow" philosophy would look like if applied to political life, public policy, and to efforts to create a more socially just world. In spite of this omission, Honoré has provided a readable, crisply written account that challenges readers to consider how we might achieve time balance in our lives. A useful resource list at the end of the book provides bibliographic references and website information on speed, time, and slowness.

Eileen is Associate Professor of Writing and Rhetoric at Syracuse University.

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