Very Quick Review: GREENLIGHTS by Matthew McConaughey (Crown Publishing/Headline)

McConaugheyM-GreenlightsA lively, entertaining memoir

I’ve been in this life for fifty years, been trying to work out its riddle for forty-two, and been keeping diaries of clues to that riddle for the last thirty-five. Notes about successes and failures, joys and sorrows, things that made me marvel, and things that made me laugh out loud. How to be fair. How to have less stress. How to have fun. How to hurt people less. How to get hurt less. How to be a good man. How to have meaning in life. How to be more me.
 
Recently, I worked up the courage to sit down with those diaries. I found stories I experienced, lessons I learned and forgot, poems, prayers, prescriptions, beliefs about what matters, some great photographs, and a whole bunch of bumper stickers. I found a reliable theme, an approach to living that gave me more satisfaction, at the time, and still: If you know how, and when, to deal with life’s challenges — how to get relative with the inevitable — you can enjoy a state of success I call “catching greenlights.”
 
So I took a one-way ticket to the desert and wrote this book: an album, a record, a story of my life so far. This is fifty years of my sights and seens, felts and figured-outs, cools and shamefuls. Graces, truths, and beauties of brutality. Getting away withs, getting caughts, and getting wets while trying to dance between the raindrops.
 
Hopefully, it’s medicine that tastes good, a couple of aspirin instead of the infirmary, a spaceship to Mars without needing your pilot’s license, going to church without having to be born again, and laughing through the tears.
 
It’s a love letter. To life.
 
It’s also a guide to catching more greenlights — and to realizing that the yellows and reds eventually turn green too.
 
Good luck.

An entertaining, quite uplifting memoir. I listened to the audiobook edition of the book, brilliantly and enthusiastically narrated by the author. I thoroughly enjoyed this.

One thing that’s very clear if you listen to or read Greenlights: this book is very McConaughey. If you’re familiar with his personality from interviews, podcasts, or many of his movies, you may well have an idea what to expect from the memoir. His confidence comes through clearly, but it doesn’t veer into arrogance. He has a clear love of life and being alive — whether recounting his month-long motorcycle trip in Europe; his hiatus from Hollywood, travelling around the US in an RV; his various movie projects and his enjoyment of all genres; or his family, he can easily identify what he found fulfilling.

This isn’t a gossipy tell-all. In fact, he’s unfailingly polite and positive about most of his interactions with others and the movie industry. Aside from his understandable anger and frustration with the police who stormed his home and arrested him while playing the bongos far too loudly at 2:30 in the morning (he was naked, too, which I’m sure would have made the experience even more annoying), the book is quite devoid of conflict.

He’s forthcoming about a lot of strange and amusing experiences. His unwise use of mink oil to clear his acne when he was a teenager. (It… really didn’t work.) His stories of his upbringing are sometimes quite tough, and even though I’ve heard him dismiss concerns from interviewers, his father can’t have been easy to live with. He’s relentlessly positive, which ultimately makes this quite an uplifting read/listen. He doesn’t linger on negative experiences, clearly intent on focusing on those experiences that pushed his life forward — the “greenlights” of the title. It’s easy to be swept up by his enthusiasm for life and experience. His includes many pronouncements from his decades-worth of diaries, many interesting, a fair few a bit goofy, and just as many hippy-esque. It could have come across as pretentious or daft, but he pulls it off and with an occasional, knowing wink.

If you are at all a fan of McConaughey’s movies, then I’d definitely recommend you give this a read and/or listen. While he spends just as much time on other subjects, he does include some accounts and memories of making some of his noteworthy projects: Dallas Buyers Club, for example. Also, there are some amusing stories from when he came on to Reign of Fire. He talks about his process (he’s not at all pretentious), how much he loves being an actor; how he enjoyed doing the rom-coms, but ultimately broke with the genre because it became too easy. He wanted more challenging and interesting roles, to get back to meaty dramatic roles like his break-out performance in A Time to Kill (which he almost didn’t get, but for a tragedy involving a murder apparently inspired by Natural Born Killers).

If you’re just a fan of celebrity or performer memoirs, then I think you’ll enjoy this. And, if you want a book told with joy and enthusiasm, then I’d definitely recommend the audiobook. I listened to this over two days, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

*

Matthew McConaughey’s Greenlights is out now, published by Crown Publishing in North America and Headline in the UK.

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