Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey (2020)


L: 6.5/10
M: 8/10
J: 7.6/10


Analysis from a dream mixed up with a vision that sent me to Costa Rica selling fruit along the Peñas Blancas river:

One part memoir and one part inspiration handbook, Greenlights is the first of its kind that I have ever read. I can’t recall if I’ve ever read a proper memoir before, but now I desperately want to explore that avenue. Matthew McConaughey wouldn’t be at the top of my list when it comes to reading a book about and from, but alas, that’s the beauty of a book club’s revolving choice.

This fraction of the book was what I enjoyed the most; the detailed steps through Matthew’s highly unorthodox and entertaining childhood all the way to his most recent notable moments. Most of his life has been public, for better or worse, so some bits and pieces were known to be going into Greenlights. That didn’t stop the unabashed recount of his multiple failures and embarrassments from being suspensefully narrated in a stranger than fiction sense. 

His journey wasn’t clean, and he uses the low points to highlight his successes. He continually strives to evolve into the best version of himself, no matter the length of the road, physical strain, or uncertainty the path takes him. Literally following his dreams, Mr. McConaughey runs off to parts unknown several times during the time frame this book transcribes in order to reinvent himself and fill the need for completion.

For me, the most exciting parts of his journey were his acting roles and the stories behind them. When I have the desire to find out details about a film, I love strolling through little known bits of trivia and the stories behind the story. I could read a book on nearly any actor’s experience in performing, the roles they didn’t get and the thought process behind auditions that they really wanted, and the projects that they were willing to sacrifice their whole careers in order to get made. That stuff is all golden, and I’ll eat it up any day. 

The other aspects of this book were hit or miss for me. I don’t want to like poetry, so I will continue to refuse it. His random thoughts are spilled throughout the story, sometimes making timely sense, other times sounding like things he wrote down on post-it notes right before the cops came in to arrest his naked bongo playing self on Tuesday morning at 4am. These moments reminded me of my dad, who defiantly has some eccentric McConaughey traits to him. He always texts me random words of wisdom and only listens to African Drum music. He even gifted me a set of bongos one Christmas (I was certain it was a Sega Dreamcast hiding in that box). 

This is where the division occurred in my brain. Many of Matthew’s life’s whimsical and random parts worked out due to his willingness to just go for it. At the same time, a lot of this wouldn’t be possible with his early success. I’m not saying he’s to blame for the beautiful situation he placed himself within; it just made it hard for me to relate, is all I’m saying.

Greenlights will definitely spur a Matthew McConaughey film binge sooner than I was planning. I’ve only seen a handful of them, but now I feel as if I was in the audition and flipped through the scripts. Oddly, I don’t feel any different about the guy, having spent the last couple of months in his head. For better or worse, I already had an image of him in my mind, and I read his words with his voice and his face in the pages. 

Analysis from the three half empty water bottles on my nightstand:

Alright, alright, alright…

Look, is he kind of an arrogant ass? Sure. Is he the kind of man you want to get a drink with, but like a four drink minimum because he seems the type to wax on and on about himself when he’s had five or more? Obviously. Is he devilishly handsome and used to being admired for it? Yup, and rightly so. Does he know how to turn on the charm to get his way and make peace after being wildly offense? All signs point to yes. Did I love him for all this despite this screaming red flags for all my past relationships? FUCK YEAH!
I love finding out how someone’s mind works. It is a drug for me and why I have far too many intimate details of people I am barely acquainted with. This book is a look into someone who I’ve never paid much attention to; therefore just kind of assumed he had no real story to tell. Hot guy, great face, accent I’m comfortable with, charming with a little asshole built-in, and can actually act? Cool. Not exactly mind-blowing, though. However, this book changed that for me. If this was a memoir of someone who just basically made it through life and told some of his adventures, I might have enjoyed it fine, but with no real takeaway. This is different, though. This is a man who grew up putting his story down on paper or tape. This is a guy who found his voice at an early age when he had no idea what he would be and decided words have power, and he likes to tinker with how to place them together for the ultimate effect. I love that! I have a weakness for the mentality of writers. I am so jealous of their creativity and ability to tap into things I emotionally cannot express with beauty and succinctness. I have blossoming adoration for Mr. McConaughey because I feel he really grasps the importance of expression, and had he not gone into acting, I think writing might have been an alternative path.
If I’m driving down the road and see a truly beautiful luxury sports car, my first instinct is to see who the driver is. I then decide, based on age and sex, if they have earned the car. This is terribly judgmental and not at all politically correct, and I understand that. I’m just telling you who I am. So if I see a hot 23-year-old girl or a young douche boy, I will assume they have not earned the car, and therefore I no longer appreciate its beauty. NOW, if it is an older man or a middle-aged woman, I’m convinced they worked hard to get their dream car and am all aflutter with praise and mad respect. This makes no logical sense. I’m aware. It just is what it is. Where I’m going with this is that I think Matt has earned his ride. He didn’t have to follow his wet dreams and do things I would have NEVER put myself in the middle of. He knew the world was big, and he wanted to explore it, so he put in the work to do it! I find that impressive. The stories he has to tell are far better than mine will ever be, and frankly, that’s laziness on my part. He also stopped dead in the middle of a successful career because he felt he wanted more, and he risked being written out of fame altogether in order to pursue fulfillment. Damn, that’s ballsy, and it sure paid off.
This book was poetry and prose, bumper sticker wisdom, random chuckles, and heavy sighs, and I was here for every last word.

Analysis from a nighttime dream that doesn’t go away until you make it come true:

I’ve never been a big fan of Matthew McConaughey despite being in two of my top 10 movies (Interstellar and Kubo and the Two Strings). There is just something so arrogant about the way he looks and acts that I just kind of want to punch him in the face. Maybe I just watched too much of him in his rom-com phase, which isn’t really my thing?

Through this book, he did a great job telling the narrative of his life. It was interesting to read the series of events that led to the man who we know today instead of thinking of him as the roles he’s played. I liked the bits of his own writing or quotes that he collected because that is something that I can relate to. Other than throwing out a few movie roles, he really doesn’t talk a ton about his acting where it feels like a major focus.

What I learned to admire about this man was that he was who he is his entire life. From the young man who stole building materials to create a giant treehouse to a fella who went to Africa in pursuit of a wet dream, he got an idea in his head and ran for it. What I saw as arrogance previously turned into confidence. The man was living my best life at times: roaming in an RV, playing hard while working hard, flying off internationally just to get some life experience, drumming naked in the middle of the night. I was exhausted but also exhilarated at all the things he had done without apology. 

However, to every pro, there is a con. By reading through this book, I felt that there were no rags to riches story or overcoming of great obstacles. He had to put in work, don’t get me wrong, but I just kind of got the impression that he just winged (wung?) it all the time, and it worked out for him. His talent was natural, he easily made the right friends, he had a supportive (albeit slightly crazy) family, etc. I can’t fault him for this because it is a lot like my own story in some regards, but it just lacked inspiration for me. The man literally forgot about a list of goals that he had made and, upon finding them sometime later, realized he had accomplished them. It just worked out to accomplish them from the back of his mind.

By reading this book, I did get reminded to live in the moment, be present with those you love and what you love doing, and to unapologetically be yourself, and awesome things will come to you. Who knows, there might be a time shortly that I write a review after having danced a jig in one of Ireland’s pubs or taken a road-trip with M across the USA to see the World’s Largest Cast Iron Skillet. Stay tuned for my future greenlights.

(PS: My favorite of his poems was Kiss the Fire and Walk Away Whistlin.) 

One thought on “Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey (2020)

  1. I love your honesty! I felt much the same way reading Elon Musk’s biography by Ashlee Vance: sure, he’s arrogant, but I still love him. (Until 1/3 of the way through the book, when he fired his secretary after she asked for a raise. My esteem of him fell rapidly from that point.)

    You may enjoy MM’s friend’s book, Lance Armstrong. They have a lot in common and have been pictured running together (I *do* recommend the photos). Lance did some things that were abhorrent, for which he has paid dearly, but several people have recommended his book as well-written and inspiring. (Full disclosure: I have not read it.)

    Cheers!

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