Review Update: ‘Greenlights’ by Matthew McConaughey

Back in October, 2020, I mentioned Academy Award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey’s memoir that celebrates his 50 years on Planet Earth, his quests for Hollywood success, his family, and the life lessons he has learned along the way. I wondered then if I would be able to get a review copy and write about it here in my long-running but little-known book review blog.

I was not able to get a review copy from Crown Publishing Company, even though several other publishers have me on their reviewers’ lists. Another practitioner of book reviews, however, recently took pity and mailed me her copy a few days ago. (Here is what I wrote about Greenlights back in October.)

I can tell you now that Greenlights is an unusual and often entertaining memoir. Fans of the actor will find plenty to like in this book, including: rough-and-tumble tales from his childhood; how a role in the low-budget movie Dazed and Confused helped him make it through the fearsome gates, moats, and alligators of Hollywood; and the life and business lessons he has learned while dealing with the advantages and disadvantages of success in the entertainment world.

The book also should please many of the people who believe successful celebrities must use their fame and wealth to help promote and support worthy causes. In McConaughey’s case, he is now serving as the City of Austin’s first Minister of Culture, “working to promote a culure of competence and shared values across cities, institutions, universities, academics, and athletics.” He is also a “professor of practice” in the Radio-TV-Film Department at the University of Texas at Austin. And he and his wife Camila founded the just keep livin Foundation, “dedicated to empowering high school students by providing them with the tools to lead active lives and make healthy choices for a better future.”

Central to McConaughey’s thinking is the concept of “greenlights.” Sometimes life gives you easy paths to cruise through, and sometimes there are red lights that flat-out stop you. When you hit a red light, you need to quit just staring at it and obsessing over it. Instead, you must find some ways to make your own “greenlights” and keep going.

There also are some timely reflections and introspections in this book. brought forward by major events in 2020, including the murder of George Floyd and the “social justice revolution” that followed, plus “a red-light drama called COVID-19.” McConaughey writes: “Both of these red lights forced us inward, literally quarantined us to search our souls for a better way forward. In doing so, we took inventory of our lives and who we are in them–what we care about, what our priorities are, what matters.”

He believes that “if we work individually to make the justified changes for a more value-driven and righteous tomorrow, the red-light year that 2020 was will one day, in the rearview mirror of life, inevitably turn green, and perhaps be seen as one of our finest hours.”

Si Dunn

East of Texas, West of Hell

Rod Davis’s New Addition to his ‘Jack Prine’ Private Investigator Series Offers Plenty of Action, Gunplay, and Southern Geography

Labels can be attached to this new novel, the second book in Rod Davis’s “Jack Prine” private investigator series. For example, you might call it “Southern noir” or perhaps “grit lit.” Whatever. I call it “good reading,” and if you’re looking for a new detective series to follow, I recommend checking out East of Texas, West of Hell. However, if you prefer to always begin with the debut book in a series, start with the first “Jack Prine” book, South, America. There, you can pick up more of Jack Prine’s back story and his approach to life, danger, and justice.

Prine, an ex-Dallas TV reporter/anchor turned New Orleans private detective, has a good and generous heart when he’s among friends he can trust. But he can be reckless and quick to use his fists, guns, or other weapons when the action and danger get hot. For example, during an tense incident in East of Texas, West of Hell, he sneaks into a rural drug lab and finds two men in the middle of cooking meth. They respond by making sudden moves, and Prine recounts: “I didn’t know if they were reaching for guns or tending to their cook, so I shot them anyway.” Prine’s quick-triggered reaction also inadvertently sparks a big fire and raises the stakes quickly for some of the book’s major characters. In short, Jack Prine not only looks for trouble but sometimes creates trouble for himself and others as he tries relentlessly to get to the truth behind some bad situations.

East of Texas, West of Hell, published by New South Press, Montgomery, AL

Rod Davis, who now lives and writes in San Antonio, Texas, is a veteran writer of both journalism and fiction. He is a former editor of The Texas Observer and has written for numerous other publications and has taught writing at the University of Texas at Austin and Southern Methodist University.

Si Dunn

The History of a ‘Scandalous and Violent’ Texas Railroad

The Texas Railroad

The Scandalous and Violent History of the International and Great Northern Railroad, 1866-1925

Wayne Cline

(For book information, click here.)

The Texas Railroad tells the fascinating story of a railroad enterprise that originally intended to create the world’s longest rail line, from Houston, Texas, to the Canadian border. But it couldn’t get enough funding. So it became the International and Great Northern Railroad ironically serving just one Southern state, Texas, and most of its major cities, including Austin, Fort Worth, Galveston, Houston, Laredo, San Antonio, and Waco.

Wayne Cline’s well-written and well-researched book takes the reader into finanicial and political scandals that allowed the great 19th-century “Robber Baron” Jay Gould to gain control of the I&GN Railroad, which his son later inherited and proudly dubbed “The Texas Railroad.” Cline’s work describes how the railroad operated, served its passengers, took care of its rolling stock and tracks, and suffered several train robberies. The author also recounts labor conflicts and violence related to unions and how the I&GN Railroad was affected not only by the massive Galveston hurricane in 1900 but by the Mexican Revolution that began in 1910, as well.

The Texas Railroad is an intriguing work of American and Texas railroad history that should please not only rail buffs but readers of history and economics interested in how this “key railroad played a major role in the agricultural, industrial, social and political development of the Lone Star State.”

Cline’s previous book also is a work of railroad history, Alabama Railroads from the University of Alabama Press.

Si Dunn

‘Steaming’: A Vietnam-Era Navy Novel

Steaming: A Sea Story

Mark David Albertson

Lulu

Texas writer Mark David Albertson’s new novel, Steaming: A Sea Story, is an entertaining tale of naval service in the Western Pacific (Westpac) and South China Sea and naval action near the coasts of Vietnam and Cambodia in the last days of the Vietnam War.

This book is aimed at fans of military fiction. And it should have special appeal for former sailors who served in the U.S. Seventh Fleet during the 1960s and 1970s. Many of them still remember what life was like aboard destroyers, cruisers, aircraft carriers, and other ships that steamed back and forth for weeks and months, patrolling off the coasts of North and South Vietnam, plus near Thailand and Cambodia. Part of this book also takes place in the Philippines, at the Subic Bay naval base and the sex-charged “liberty” town, Olongapo, right outside the main gate.

Almost anyone who has served aboard a ship in the U.S. Navy comes home with a variety of “sea stories” to tell. And these stories can take on lives of their own as they are told, retold, and inevitably, embellished. Steaming simultaneously offers elements of truth and imagination. And even those of us who served in Westpac, in the 7th Fleet, and held high security clearances during parts of the Vietnam War, may not be able to separate the facts from the entertaining fictions in Mark David Albertson’s new book.

Si Dunn

Matthew McConaughey’s New ‘Greenlights’ Autobiography

Matthew McConaughey’s autobiography Greenlights is due to be released Oct. 20, 2020, by Crown Publishing. I doubt I’ll be receiving a copy to review in this backwater book blog. But the Sunday (Oct. 18, 2020) New York Times has published an enticing spread in its Culture section focusing on McConaughey and his new book. Greenlights promises to be interesting and informative reading and perhaps inspiring, as well.

The first (and almost only) time I’ve met Matthew McConaughey was a few years ago in Austin. I was in a buffet line at a school event, loading up my free plate of food. McConaughey was behind me. He looked very skinny and in dire need of sustanance. I kept encouraging him to put more food on his tray. He had, at best, a barely visible lettuce-and-tomato salad and nothing else. He just grinned and said politely, “No thank you. I’m good.” When I went back for seconds, I caught his eye and pointed again insistently toward the buffet line. He grinned again and again shook his head no. “I’m good,” he assured me. I already knew that, of course. I’d seen him in several movies and enjoyed his performances.

At that same school event, while McConaughey and his young son were playing football together outside, I had entertaining conversations with the Austin actor’s wife and his mother. We talked about many things, including East Texas, South America, and McConaughey’s high school days. Neither his mother nor his wife expressed any concerns about how skinny I thought McConaughey looked.

What I didn’t know then (and they were keeping secret from me) was that he was getting in shape to be the emaciated and clever AIDS patient Ron Woodroof in the movie “Dallas Buyers Club,” for which he would win a 2014 Oscar for “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role.”

I’m glad now that I didn’t attempt any force-feeding interventions, beyond saying “Well, at least have few more tomatoes.”

You can get “Greenlights” by Matthew McConaughey here.

Si Dunn

Node.js Design Patterns

Design and implement production-grade Node.js applications using proven patterns and techniques, 3rd Edition

Mario Casciaro and Luciano Mammino

Packt Publishing

Node.js often is thought of simply as a small but helpful tool for working with JavaScript code while developing applications. The two writers of (paid link) Node.js Design Patterns, 3rd Edition, however, show that Node.js is much more than a minor helpmate. They call it a major “innovation” in the challenging world of web development.

In their view, “the most important aspect of Node.js lies in its ecosystem: the npm package manager, its constantly growing database of modules, its enthusiastic and helpful community, and most importantly, its very own culture based on simplicity, pragmatism, and extreme modularity.”

Along with clear descriptions of how Node.js works, their updated and expanded third edition (paid link) offers “proven patterns and techniques” for designing and implementing production-grade applications using Node.js.

They delve into Node’s single-threaded programming model, its asynchronous architecture, and its deliberate emphasis on creating modules that do one thing well. And they describe how these approaches provide important benefits and advantages to developers who need to design applications that can be developed, tested, scaled, and maintained more easily.

In keeping with the “Node way” of application developement, their book lays out a ready-to-use “set of patterns to solve common Node.js design and coding problems.” The two authors discuss and illustrate how to write “scalable and efficient Node.js applications.” And they explain how to code in “modern” JavaScript, including “class syntax, promises, generator functions, and async/await.” They also point out differences between CommonJS and ESM (ECMAScript modules) and show how to handle those differences in Node.js.

If you develop applications using JavaScript, you may already have at least some basic experience with Node.js. Whether you are an experienced developer or just getting started, consider getting Node.js Design Patterns, 3rd Edition (paid link) and keeping it handy as an important reference source. It is well written and well structured. And, at 600+ pages, it covers a wide range of topics, from callbacks and events to messaging and integration patterns, plus more.

Si Dunn

(My thanks to Packt for sending a copy for review consideration.)

NOTE: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Enraged about Bob Woodward’s ‘Rage’?

Yes, when it comes to Bob Woodward’s Rage, (paid link) there are matters to be mad about, such as why didn’t Woodward let us know what he knew regarding Trump downplaying COVID-19’s dangers when he first knew it? And there are basic questions to be asked, such as: why has Woodward’s book been timed for release on roughly the same schedule as several other new books exposing aspects of Trump and his grifts-a-minute administration?

For example, (paid links follow) there’s Michael Cohen’s Disloyal. And there’s Peter Strzok’s Compromised. Or, how about Stephanie Winston Wolkoff’s Melania and Me, etc. Indeed, a long list of tell-mostly-all books has emerged and will keep emerging between now and November and beyond.

Bottom line: Everyone wants to (and will try) make money off the presidential election. Including those who write, publish, and sell books.

One does not write a controversial book overnight and get it past all of the requiste lawyers in a hurry. And publishers, not writers, play most of the key roles in how, where, and when a book gets published and becomes available for distribution. (paid link below)

Rage by Bob Woodward, Simon & Schuster.

Another bottom line: What if the combined impact of these books, including (paid link) Rage, helps limit the Trump presidency to one term–or less?

If Woodward had released his information a lot earlier, what if it had gotten lost under six or ten other controversies and banner headlines regard the Trump Administration and COVID-19? Republicans would have done a full-court press on damage control and offered full-throated denials. How many lives would have been saved by a squashed disclosure buried under their avalanche of disinformation and what-about-isms? Yes, many lives needlessly have been lost, and Trump deserves much of the blame–him, the Republican Party, and all of Trump’s mask-rejecting, social-distance-rejecting, vaccine-disparging cult followers. Meanwhile, our political attention spans are on full alert now. We are angry and ready to act.

You’re free to rage at Bob Woodward’s Rage. (Yep, another paid link). But rage also that our entire political system is now drowning 20,000 leagues deep under a sea of dark money, and just about everyone (in power or not) is wanting to reach into that vast money bag and grab a few coins.

Si Dunn

NOTE: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Just One of the Ways Political Crime Pays?

Guess which book, as yet unreleased, is pre-selling at #1 in Amazon’s “Corruption & Misconduct in Politics” category? 

P.S., I possibly may earn a few helpful cents as an Amazon affiliate bookseller if you follow this link to the book. But only if you actually buy it or something else. Otherwise, bupkis. No soup for me. Thanks for considering. 

https://amzn.to/3kW9F9y

NOTE: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

A Blockbuster’s Blockbuster?

Sales totals continue to explode for Mary L. Trump’s book, Too Much and Never Enough. (paid link)

CNN has reported: “A tell-all memoir by President Donald Trump’s niece — who claims he has world-endangering emotional problems stemming from childhood trauma inflicted by his parents — has sold 1.35 million copies in its first week, according to publisher Simon & Schuster.”

On Twitter, @KaivanShroff has noted that “@MaryLTrump‘s book has already sold more copies in one week than @realDonaldTrump’s ‘Art of the Deal’ sold over 3 decades.”

If you haven’t read it yet, the book should be easily located on websites that handle new and used books (yes, used copies already are becoming available). Too Much and Never Enough  (paid link) is available in hardcover, ebook, audio CD, and audiobook formats, according to Amazon.

***

Si Dunn

NOTE: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Book Reflections: 07/2020

Recently, I’ve reviewed several new books for Lone Star Literary Life and for this book review blog. And I keep looking guiltily at the other books I’ve gathered over the months and years before the pandemic hit. I want to be reading them, too. Yet, even when much of life is shut down and “house arrest” is beginning to feel “normal,” I still can’t find enough time to go back and read the books I stacked up in preparation for blizzards that never came, beach holidays that never happened, and those lazy, carefree afternoons that are just an urban myth. Meanwhile, enticing new books keep appearing in droves.

The Only Good Indians by the prolific Stephen Graham Jones is an offbeat and truly horrifying horror tale set on a Blackfeet Indian reservation. Suffice it to say, bad things can happen if you try to ignore, go against, or forget your culture and heritage. You can get the book here if you don’t mind shopping on Amazon.

Jessica Goudeau‘s compelling nonfiction work, After the Last Border, follows two immigrants on their difficult journey through America’s politically imperiled refugee resettlement program. The author convincingly makes the case that the program needs to be saved and rebooted under new and better national leadership. More information about the book is available here.

Poetry is almost always a hard sell in the book market. (For example, it has taken me more than 40 years to get my inventory down to the last ten copies — from a press run of 500 — of my first book of poetry, Waiting for Water. Most of them I’ve simply given away.) Anyway, I recently reviewed Variations of Labor: Stories and Poems by “writer and labor organizer” Alex Gallo-Brown, who has been called “the poet of the service economy” by other reviewers. It’s an entertaining and intriguing collection of short works, all related in some way to “the way work happens in our lives.” (My review is here.)

Meanwhile, stay safe, keep reading, continue holding writers and poets in your thoughts and prayers, and buy somebody’s new or old book soon, if you can. We’re all in this global tragicomedy together.

Si Dunn

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