From the Academy Award-winning cowriter of Birdman, a wonderfully eccentric, suspenseful debut in the tradition of Misery and Kiss of the Spiderwoman about a screenwriter kidnapped by a world-famous director who orders him to compose a masterpiece.
Pablo, a failed Argentine novelist-turned-screenwriter, has been kidnapped by the greatest Latin American film director of all time and is kept in a basement where he works, day after day, on what he is told must at all costs be a great, world-changing screenplay. Every night, after finishing work on the script, Pablo writes in his notebook and every morning he crosses out what he wrote the night before. The Crossed-Out Notebook is Pablo’s diary of this time: being brought food by a maid; being threatened with a gun; vociferously arguing with the director about what he’s written the previous day.
The clash between the two men and their different approaches leads to a movie being made, a gun going off, an unlikely escape, and a final confrontation. In the end, The Crossed-Out Notebook is a darkly funny novel full of intrigue and surprise about the essence of the creative process; a short, crazy ode to any artist whose brilliance shines through strangeness and adversity.
This reading group guide for The Crossed-Out Notebook includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Pablo, a failed Argentine novelist turned screenwriter, has been abducted by the greatest Latin American film director of all time and is kept in a basement where he works, day after day, on what he is told must at all costs be a great, world-changing screenplay. Every night, after finishing work on the screenplay, Pablo writes in his notebook and every morning he crosses out what he wrote the night before. The Crossed-Out Notebook is Pablo’s diary of this time: his psychological torment by a maid, being threatened with a gun, and his vociferous arguing with the director about what he wrote the previous day.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. The Crossed-Out Notebook is about the essence of the creative process. How does Pablo view this process differently from Santiago Salvatierra?
2. The novel is a diary documenting Pablo’s time in Salvatierra’s basement. Much of it is written in a form approaching stream of consciousness. Discuss how this impacted your reading experience. Did you notice any changes in style over the course of the book?
3. In the chapter “Unencrypted Word File,” Pablo writes that the best books are “the unwritten ones. But it’s impossible to write a screenplay without writing.” Analyze this assertion.
4. What is the significance of Pablo’s background as a failed musician?
5. Do you see any similarities between Amadeus, Pablo’s favorite film, and the events described in The Crossed-Out Notebook? What does its inclusion in the book suggest about the theme of mediocrity?
6. What commentary does the novel make about the film world? Why do you think Pablo, a screenwriter, believes novels to be a superior art form to films?
7. Discuss Norma’s role in the story. Did you view her as a prisoner like Pablo or as an accomplice of Stantiago’s?
8. How did the progression from crossed-out notebook, to encrypted file, to unencrypted file, to yellow sticky note change your reading of the text? What impact did putting the writing medium front and center have on the experience of reading a book about writing?
9. Why didn’t Pablo call his mother when he left the basement? Do you think he was afraid to return to his normal life?
10. Discuss the novel’s ending. What is the significance of finishing a creative work?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Read Stephen King’s Misery, another novel about a kidnapped writer. Discuss and compare the two.
2. Watch Birdman, the Academy Award–winning film the author cowrote. Discuss any similarities in style you detect between the novel and the film.
Nicolás Giacobone was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1975. He shared an Academy Award and Golden Globe for co-writing Birdman, which also won the Academy Award for Best Picture. He is the author of the novel The Crossed-Out Notebook.
"For my next masterpiece, I fully intend to hold Nicolas Giacobone captive in my basement and force him to write a novel as playful and literate and overall splendid as The Crossed-Out Notebook."
– Joshua Ferris, author of The Dinner Party and Other Stories
"Nicolas Giacobone has done the impossible. The Crossed-Out Notebook is a meta-fictional page-turner that grapples as much with Beckett as with Pretty Woman, as much with The Beatles as with Fellini. Also hidden in these pages are gems about what it takes to sit down in your pajamas everyday and attempt to put worlds to words."
– Daniel Magariel, author of One of the Boys
"A deceptively straightforward slack-wire act of a novel that probes the hairline crack between selling art and selling out."
– Nell Zink, author of Mislaid
"This dark comedy/suspense novel is a page-turning take on the conditions in which we can create."
– Lit Hub, a Most Anticipated Book of the Year
"A satire with thriller elements that depicts the most perverse side of the creative process... Like Misery passed through the sieve of comedy."
– Time Out Barcelona
"An intellectual thriller that grabs you."
– La Capital (Argentina)
"A novel that synthesizes Giacobone's literary knowledge and his learnings and reflections from the world of film."
– La Razon (Spain)
"A fascinating thriller and deliciously devilish... But beyond the thriller elements, the caricature and the satire, The Crossed-Out Notebook is above all a an enthralling dive into the intimacy of the creative process."
– Les Inrockuptibles (France)
"A smart, introspective, and gripping examination of the burdens and joys of the writing life."
"Giacobone eagerly explores the nature of inspiration and film's essence as a collaborative art. But he also keeps the prose breezy; much of the novel is delivered in snappy, witty one-sentence paragraphs. And he assuredly ratchets up the tension as Pablo's deadline approaches, making the final act a twisty revenge fantasy against formulaic art-making of all sorts.A clever meditation on the joys and agonies of creativity, enlivened by its pressure-cooker plot."