“Words are like flashlights,” says essayist Phyllis Theroux. “They keep me from getting lost in the darkness.”
Now, Theroux has gathered up the brightest of lights from her favorite writers, and put them into a jar. It’s called Word Candy.
I fell for Phyllis Theroux decades ago when I read Night Lights: Bedtime Stories for Parents in the Dark. She saved me from losing my mind as I raised three children. Theroux also has three children, including the actor-writer-artist Justin Theroux. But in those days, he was just a kid stumbling through a series of schools that didn’t work for him. To me, the beauty of Night Lights was that she didn’t claim to have answers, just glorious questions to share.
Word Candy is what she removed from her latest memoir, “The Journal Keeper.” To keep the narrative moving, she had to strip most of the words she had copied down in her journals from other writers who gave her comfort and inspiration. “Now I’ve put them all back,” she said, “in a collection of their own. “
The quotes, chosen by this seasoned writer and life-long reader demonstrate a wide range and poignancy and are happily cliché-free; no cat poster sentiment here. Contributors range from Virginia Woolf to James Baldwin, Pablo Neruda to Helen Keller, Ralph Waldo Emerson to Sister Wendy Beckett.
And the Bible. When Jennifer Aniston got her jar of Word Candy (Theroux was her mother-in-law, and is still a friend), she was so thrilled with her first pick, that she made a video and sent it to Theroux. The quote was from Exodus. “Don’t worry for anxiety is the result of a tired mind. I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with my hand…”
Phyllis Theroux writes to create community, which is why she selected these words by the playwright Arthur Miller.
“The truth, the first truth, probably, is that we are all connected, watching one another. Even the trees.”
“I think that’s right,” she said. We are all connected, and there are 167 men and women in a little glass jar whose words I hope will connect with you.”
This collection is an amazing gift – a gift from a wonderful writer, teacher and mentor.
A jar full of light.