Over the course of his nearly three-decade-long career, Matthew McConaughey’s public and personal lives have bled seamlessly into each other. Where, one might rightly wonder, does the offhand cool of Dazed and Confused’s David Wooderson end and the blithe indifference of McConaughey the unclad bongo player begin? This merging of the face and the mask makes McConaughey one of our most enigmatic celebrities, at once so relatable and so baffling. It’s a dynamic that, inevitably, plays out in his recent memoir Greenlights, an instant camp classic that belongs on every Texan’s bookshelf, right between Lonesome Dove and the picture book Madeline in Texas. Both admirably forthcoming (to the point of self-indulgence) and absurdly affected (he almost always spells the word “livin” without a “g”), the book is as pleasurable a ride as one of McConaughey’s beloved Lincolns.
In keepin with the “Is this for real?” vibe that runs throughout this memoir (in one passage, McConaughey writes rhapsodically about seeing an actual mermaid in the Amazon River), we have created a quiz that asks: Can you figure out which of the following entries from Greenlights are real and which we made up, in the sincerest form of flattery?
- I packed up those journals and took a one-way ticket to solitary confinement in the desert, where I began writing what you hold now: an album, a record, a story of my life so far. Things I witnessed, dreamed, chased, gave and received. Truth bombs that interrupted my space and time in ways I could not ignore. Contracts I have made with myself, many of which I live up to, most of which I still pursue. These are my sights and seens, felts and figured outs, cools and shamefuls. Graces, truths, and beauties of brutality. Initiations, invitations, calibrations, and graduations. Getting away withs, getting caughts, and getting wets trying to dance between the raindrops. Rites of passage. All between or on the other sides of persistence and letting go, on the way to the science of satisfaction in this great experiment called life.
- Mom was a spitfire, sharper than a prairie thumbtack, faster than a shooting star on the Night Sky Express. Never one to ask for permission or beg for forgiveness. As a kid, I looked up to her, until I got too tall.
- I was down to 140 pounds, and my nose was constantly running. For the last month, every night after dinner, I’d go back to my restroom, run a hot bath, listen to one of my three cassettes on my Walkman, write another fifteen-page letter to myself, and jack off to Lord Byron.
- Time to get rid of the filters. Make my life my favorite movie. Live my favorite character. Write my own script. Direct my own story. Be my biography. Make my own documentary, on me. Nonfiction. Live, not recorded. Time to catch the hero I’ve been chasing, see if the sun will melt the wax that holds my wings or if the heat is just a mirage. Live my legacy now. Quit acting like me. Be me.
- My “arrival” in Hollywood was more disorienting than eight seconds on a rank bull. Apparently I was the second coming of Dennis Hopper, drafted to save an industry I didn’t even know needed saving. Being voted “most handsome” in high school I could handle. This was something different. Wilder. Rowdier. This, mis amigos, was danger.
- And here we are, in the woods of our own hearts. Bandannas across our mouths and noses to protect ourselves and everything we’ve ever loved. Red lights, seemingly in every direction. “Stop” going to the movies. “Stop” visiting your grandmother. “Stop” shaking hands with the strangers who are a handshake away from being your friends. But the world still spins, and whether or not we think we are in motion, we are always moving.
Key: 1, 3, 4: True. 2, 5, 6: False.
This article originally appeared in the January 2021 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “The Best Things in Texas.” Subscribe today.
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