I occasionally find books more difficult to review than other things such as movies, or music. While I enjoy them just as much, that is most certainly why I write book reviews/recommendations way less often than any other type of review.
I think this is because books take more time.
You can fly through a movie, no matter how long it is, as long as the plot and performances have drawn you in. With books, reading takes a lot more time than watching a movie, and the pacing can be all over the place, causing you to lose focus or even need to take a break and come back to it. While I have read plenty of books that I just couldn’t put down, and others that I practically flew through because of how action packed/fast paced they were, those cases are rare. It also varies depending on what type of book it is: Fiction or Non-Fiction. I am an admitted speed reader, but I hardly ever speed read Non-Fiction books because they provide me with facts and information, and I want to fully absorb what I am reading. With Fiction, I can often speed read and skim over things that simply aren’t important, yet still not miss anything.
“Greenlights” by Matthew McConaughey (which I will refer to as Double M going forward) was a book I highly enjoyed!
Part memoir, part autobiography, part spiritual journey, part life advice, part breakdown of his filmography…”Greenlights” could honestly be cataloged in about 6 different sections of the Non-Fiction section at PPL.
I’ve been a fan of Double M ever since I was 13 years old and watched “Dazed and Confused” for the first time. I loved that movie for a lot of reasons (I still do) but his smooth, southern-drawl, sweet-talking Wooderson character stuck with me from the first time he spoke. While I haven’t seen every movie of his, I have seen most, and he is one of the few actors that I am hard-pressed to name a bad movie/performance.
Some people have “auras” to them, and for me, Double M has always been one of those people. I just find myself drawn to him, and enjoying the things he does. As a matter of fact I will go ahead and admit it, because I know I am not the only one out there that feels this way: I have a man-crush on Double M!
When I learned he was releasing a book, I wanted to read it right away. To make sure that I could, I did something I rarely ever do: I bought the book brand new. Usually if I want to read something, I get it from the library, or I find it cheap somewhere at a secondhand store. In the past two calendar years I think I have only purchased three books brand new, so that is a testament of how “drawn” to his book I was.
In terms of being a biography/memoir, “Greenlights” taught me a lot about Double M that I never knew. I was pleased with this, because I have read plenty of biographies that gloss over a lot of things, negating the purpose of them even being written. I never knew Double M had an up-and-down broken home upbringing, with parents that seemingly never stopped fighting. Or that he has always had a wanderlust mindset, preferring to spend as much time as possible travelling the world and experiencing life via adventure and connection, than hunkering down somewhere and building a stationary life. I also never knew how driven he is, and has been even since childhood. As with most actors, I (wrongly) assumed he had always wanted to be an actor, made the decision to do so at a young age, and became successful at it. That is only partially true!
In terms of being a filmography, “Greenlights” told a lot of behind-the-scenes experiences Double M had while making movies. I had no idea he is a method-actor, going so far as to do things like shave his head on a whim for his role in “Reign of Fire,” and scaring producers of the movie in the process so much so that he almost got fired from the film. Some of his movies he glossed over and only mentioned by name, and while I would have liked to read similar stories about them, I feel he did so not out of laziness or simple omission, but that he chose instead to focus on the other movies that were actually important to him.
In terms of “Greenlights” being a spiritual journey combined with life advice…wow. I was blown away but how much I found myself agreeing with Double M’s views on things, and life, and how much I see myself in him. I too share a wanderlust mindset. I travel as often I can, and it never feels like it is enough. I wish I could travel permanently, but have no way of actually doing so. Double M is lucky in that he has entrenched himself in a lifestyle that permits him to do so. If you suddenly made $50,000 out of nowhere (like he did for a couple of his first movies) and had no other responsibilities in life, you could easily fly to South America and take a trip floating down the Amazon River to “find yourself” like he did. I can’t do that, so I take short-trips wherever and whenever I can, and do things in my own way. But together we share the same mindset: we want to go places, see things, have memorable experiences, and learn not only about the world, but ourselves.
A lot of his life advice and personal mantras are ones I have heard before, and you no doubt have as well. But sometimes when you hear something again, you hear it differently. And when you hear it differently, it makes it more impactful. I found myself hearing things differently as I read, and connecting with Double M and his life advice, in terms of letting things go, letting yourself properly absorb an experience, allowing yourself to connect not just with others, but with you…I could go on and on.
“Greenlights” was an excellent read, for a lot of different reasons. I will be recommending it to a lot of people, in the hopes that they take from it not only what I did, but with other things I may not have.
Double M’s best advice, in my opinion, is the mantra he’s since built his entire life around ever since first saying them on screen in “Dazed and Confused”:
“You just gotta keep livin, man. l-i-v-i-n.”