Greenlights is a remarkable first book from an already renowned artist. It’s a bit of a mashup of Anthony Bourdain with Ernest Hemingway, while McConaughey tells stories with the aplomb of an accomplished raconteur. Part memoir, part life guide, and part ethic Greenlights is worth reading for many beyond McConaughey’s fan base; basically, anyone who likes a good man’s man adventure story.
Born into the lower middle class in East Texas, McConaughey looks back nostalgically at a childhood few would envy. His parents divorced and remarried each other twice, he was subject to corporal punishment and money was always an issue. Yet he doesn’t complain about the disadvantages. In fact, he honors his parents despite their shortcomings. He adheres to a philosophy of choosing to recalibrate what seems like the inevitable until it turns into a green light or way forward in life.
After a rite of passage involving brawling with a barroom bouncer, McConaughey pursued acting with the drive and hard work ethic that was instilled into him. Finding early success, he chooses to live in a way directly opposite to the Hollywood scene. Traveling the country with his dog, going off on expeditions to the middle of Africa and South America, McConaughey sees livin (drop the g to indicate it’s always a verb) as more than just the material success and creature comforts many of us settle on.
Finally, after years of womanizing, McConaughey settled into a successful monogamous relationship and fulfilled his life long ambition of being a father. Nearly simultaneously he chose to walk away from lucrative rom-com to focus on something more artistic. Initially successful in winning an Oscar for the Dallas Buyers Club, McConaughey admits that he hasn’t achieved the popular success he envisioned. But that is all grist for the mill, experiments in livin that are ongoing.
If this is the kind of man you would like to read about, Greenlights will be an enjoyable and inspirational read. It’s rare that a successful actor has such a distinctive off-air personality. But if you’re turned off by physical conflict, wild adventures and a man who brags about rarely showering alone than Greenlights is not for you.
Personally, while not finding all parts of McConaughey’s biography admirable, I found enough of him to be so different than what Hollywood typically churns out that the book was worth reading. Recommended to all who feel they’re similarly traveling in unmapped regions and want to gather around the campfire to hear a fellow wanderer’s tales.