D. Donovan, Midwest Book Review:
"Out of all the works you have written, which ones would you most recommend to an Orthodox reader now?"
The Good Parts: Hand-Picked Verbal Icons for Orthodox and Others is a study in reading recommendations for literary Orthodox scholars, hand-picking from the numerous works written by C.S. Hayward to provide a synthesis of the most powerful passages across a myriad of works. Hayward chose some one out of four works for this collection, but it still features just over a thousand pages of material. This will prove both daunting and attractive to those who hold more than a casual interest in Orthodoxy in general and Hayward's works in particular.
Here are the nutshells of wisdom that stem from the author's studies and experience, presenting his writings and reflections in a survey that is both personal and scholarly: "...when I began to repent, I wondered if repenting would leave anything left in my writing. And after I had let go of that, I found that there was still something left to write...When we are repenting, or trying to, or trying not to, repentance is the ultimate terror. It seems unconditional surrender—and it is. But when we do repent, we realize, "I was holding on to a piece of Hell," and we realize that repentance is also a waking up, a coming to our senses, and a coming to joy."
The essays tackle a wide range of issues affecting Orthodoxy and religious studies, from conflicts, miscommunication, and misinterpretation of Biblical intention and the Word of God to reflections on modern conditions and pursuits that impact belief systems: "You cannot kill time," the saying goes, "without injuring eternity." At least one breakdown of mobile users has said that they fall into three groups: "Urgent now," people who have some degree of emergency and need directions, advice, contingency plans, and the like, "Repeat now," people who are monitoring information like weather or how their stocks are doing, and "Bored now," people who are caught and have some time to kill, and look for a diversion. "Bored now" use of cell phones is simply not constructive spiritually; it offers a virtual escape for the here and now God has given us, and it is the exact opposite of the saying, "Your cell [as a monk] will teach you everything you need to know."
Readers might find these connections between social conditions, political beliefs, and God's intentions surprising, but that's one of the pleasures of The Good Parts—its ability to study not just Orthodoxy of the past, but Orthodoxy in action today.
Readers will also be delighted by the wide-ranging nature of these articles, from food choices and health to spiritual matters connecting modern choices with God's intention and guidance. Ponderings include reflections on science, diet and health, philosophy, technology, and historical interpretation.
The wide-ranging subjects and approaches of these pieces lend not to methodical chapter-by-chapter pursuits, but to skipping around to fully absorb the subjects that capture the mind and eye. This pursuit is reinforced by the author's link, at the end of each work, which returns to the table of contents. This creates a sense of random access akin to an Internet browser: instead of reading each piece in (alphabetical) order, people can move around and selectively read what they want, in any order.
Hayward has read the Bible in seven ancient, medieval, and modern languages. C.S. Lewis formed him, as a writer, but the student has moved beyond his influence and surpassed his muse in all the works Hayward has produced that rival his mentor and inspiration.
The Good Parts represents a powerful synthesis of Hayward's life work and writings. It should be considered a foundation guide not only to his many volumes of writing, but as a stand-alone read representing the best of his analyses.
Orthodoxy students, in particular, will appreciate the wide-ranging nature of these social, theological, philosophical, and multifaceted inspections.
It should be noted that while paperback and hardcover are usually preferable for long-term lending and libraries, in this case, due to a brittle spine, readers should buy this title in Kindle, or view it on the web.