I found Greenlights (2020) by Matthew McConaughey available on audiobook from my library. I had a pretty big crush on McConaughey when I was younger, but I never knew much about his life. I liked that McConaughey was reading the book himself, and I figured it would be interesting; so I gave it a shot.
The best thing about this book is McConaughey’s reading. His unmistakable drawl brings his story to life, and he’s great with the accents when he’s speaking for other people. McConaughey discusses his childhood growing up in a small town in Texas, his breakthrough into films, and his “McConaissance” later in his career. He also talks about fatherhood and how he met his wife. I appreciated that McConaughey didn’t seem to chase fame and instead did what he wanted to do at the time, not apologizing for anything. I loved that he spent three years traveling the country in an Airstream trailer–way before it became as trendy as it is today. He also traveled to Mali by himself, not using his money and fame for the sanitary comfort he could have had on that trip. Other interesting stories include how he met his wife and his explanation of the naked bongo drumming incident.
McConaughey was obviously tough and independent, as evidenced from when he survived studying abroad with a crazy family in the boondocks of Australia. At other times, he seemed simply blessed with a magical charisma that got him anything he wanted. He went to Europe with a buddy and very little money. A German motorcycle shop owner agreed to rent them two high-end motorcycles for a fraction of the actual cost. And when his buddy crashed it, the shop owner drove hundreds of miles to meet them with a new motorcycle so they could finish their trip. This also seemed to happen when it came to getting movie parts. Most of them he didn’t try out for, they just kind of happened. Although this doesn’t mean that McConaughey didn’t work hard. It sounded like he took some serious risks when he transitioned from rom-coms to more serious fare.
However, I wasn’t so sure about this book when I first started listening. McConaughey begins the book by discussing his family and upbringing. It sounded like an odd, semi-abusive childhood, but McConaughey painted it like it was a good thing. I had a hard time understanding where he was coming from. Was he being disingenuous? Did he not want to badmouth his family publicly? (Understandable) Or has he not really digested how he grew up and how it’s affected him? His relationship with his father seems especially complicated. I was curious whether this relationship had anything to do with McConaughey always wanting to be a father. Also, I wondered whether McConaughey wanted to emulate his own father when he became a father himself.
Occasionally McConaughey would go into a word association, free form sort of poetry that didn’t really work for me. And every once in awhile, I felt like I was getting unreliable life lessons pushed on me. But in the end, McConaughey’s charisma shines through. I enjoyed listening to him talk about his life, and I love his accent.
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