The Crossed-Out Notebook

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 24 Sep 2019

Member Reviews

I received an advance digital copy of this book from the author, publisher and Netgalley.com. Thanks to all for the opportunity to read and review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

The Crossed-Out Notebook is an excellent, surreal and disturbing read. Characters are relatable and flawed in intense situations that bring out the worst of human nature.

5 out of 5 stars. Highly recommended.
Was this review helpful?
Writers often lament the fact that they are beset by distractions. Some will go to great lengths to isolate themselves, going on retreats or hiring an office or hiding out in a garden shed. The Crossed Out Notebook is a warning to be careful what you wish for.

Pablo is a struggling scriptwriter in Buenos Aires. He has been kidnapped by Santiago, a famous movie director, and forced to write screenplays for him in the basement of his rural home. Why? According to Pablo, it’s because directors think they can do it all, but they can’t. Santiago is a great director but a mediocre writer. He needs Pablo.

After five years, Pablo has adjusted to his incarceration and he and Santiago have formed a strict writing routine. They plan and discuss scenes each day for the movie they are working on, and then Pablo writes them when Santiago leaves. So far they have written two successful films like this. Santiago is determined that the next film will be the one that will win everything (which Pablo interprets as code for success in Hollywood).

In order to aid him, Pablo is given books, films and music. To keep himself from despairing when he thinks of his past life, and in particular his mother, he focuses intently on art. When he’s not writing he muses on a host of great (overwhelmingly male) authors, directors and musicians from Joyce to Borges to Fellini. He obsesses over the music of the Beatles. He describes his development as a writer. Despite his unhappiness and his concern for his family and friends, he can’t help draw pleasure from what he has achieved and this creates a terrible conflict in his relationship with Santiago.

The novel is supposedly the words he writes in a notebook, which he meticulously crosses out every morning, so that Santiago will not be able to read them. It is the one thing that is his, and is a stream of consciousness, free of the constraints of narrative form. In this way he brings to life the question of whether writers should be led by inspiration or structure, and the ideas popularised for cinema by Robert McKee in Story, who in turn draws on Aristotle’s Poetics. It is also his attempt to keep a sense of self, something apart from Santiago, in a situation where he only exists in the world in the words of a script bearing someone else’s name.

While the obvious parallel is with Stephen King’s Misery, a thriller about a reader imprisoned by an obsessive fan and forced to write the story she wants to read, there are also echoes of King’s memoir On Writing. In that, King describes, about as well as anyone can, the role of the unconscious in writing:

"There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement kind of guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in."

Pablo is talking about the relationship between a screenwriter and a director, but perhaps he is also talking about the two sides of any creative person – the inventive, unconscious, inspired part, and the practical, organised, connected, project-managing part.

Despite the subject matter, The Crossed Out Notebook is not all darkness. There is some bleak humour in Pablo’s reflections, and in his battle of wills with Norma, the housekeeper who delivers his food. Pablo makes some smart observations on popular culture and the business of movie marketing, the intersection between art and entertainment. He uses rhythm and repetition to great effect and I can imagine in the original Spanish this would be even more effective. It is also interesting reading it in translation because some of his musings are on the effect of translation. As they write their Hollywood masterpiece in Spanish, before sending it to the translator, Pablo and Santiago reflect not just on the words but on how the concepts will translate.

The Crossed Out Notebook isn’t a crowd pleaser in the same way as Misery, which is a fascinating study of creativity and obsession, but which you can read as a cracking thriller and never give a thought to the underlying themes. This is a book about ideas, and it won’t chime with everyone. However, if you are interested in cinema or writing or the mysteries of the creative process, it’s an intriguing and satisfying read.
Was this review helpful?
Talk about working under pressure!  Santiago, a famous Argentinian director (and let's be honest- a bit insane) kidnaps Pablo, a failed novelist turned screenwriter, locking him in the basement.  Santiago wants Pablo to create the perfect script but that's not going to happen.  Nope.  Every morning, Pablo crosses out what he's written and starts again.  Sort of a literary groud hog day except it's not- there's a lot of menace and Pablo knows what's happening to him.  This is told in Pablo's stream of consciousness (which gets a bit much at times). This goes on for five years (!); no spoilers as to how it ends.   Norma the maid is a bright spot and a hoot.  Thanks to the publisher for the ARC.  An unusual read for fans of literary fiction.
Was this review helpful?
When Pablo's life as a novelist ends in failure he tries his hand in screenwriting. However, he finds himself kidnapped by a very famous director and forced to write a world-changing screenplay. Every night when Pablo stops working he begins writing in his journal, but, every morning he wakes up and crosses out everything that he has written. This is his diary of his time being kidnapped; full of threats, arguments, and food brought to him by a maid.

Normally I don't go for just plain fiction because I am in constant need of a twist or a mystery to figure out. After reading plain fiction I am always left looking for something more or becoming bored throughout my reading. This book had its funny moments but I did not find myself enjoying it. 

On Goodreads I rated this book a 2/5 because although it was a fast read I found myself getting annoyed with the main character. It is told from Pablo's perspective and he becomes very repetitive and it's hard to determine if he is going insane during his captivity or if he is pretending to go insane to try to get out of captivity. There are a lot of parts that are written in Spanish and those parts are not always translated so I was left a little confused. This is far from the worst book that I have ever read and I was able to read it within 2 days so the fact that it is an easy read gives the book some brownie points. However, as someone who is always looking for more when it comes to books this book just didn't do it for me. If you're a fan of fiction books and don't mind sorting through repetitive thoughts from a possible crazed character than I think that you will really enjoy this book. 

It comes out September 24, 2019 so keep a look out!!
Was this review helpful?
The Crossed-Out Notebook has the potential to be a good book, but instead was slogged down with boring and drawn out details. It's maddening to read....and maybe that's the point.  

At the core, this is the story of a writer being held captive by a director and forced to produce screenplays to which the director will claim sole credit. This book is his 'notebook' of this time. 

I think it's a good book - but it's just not something I enjoyed reading. I read to calm down and this...this did not help.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book.
Was this review helpful?
I actually haven’t yet watched the movie that made this author famous. But the book sounded intriguing and I wanted to read something international, in fact this may have been my first Argentinian book, everyone probably always starts with Borges, but somehow I still haven’t managed to tackle that, so yeah…this was a choice made on the book’s own merit, not the fact that its author shared an Oscar and a Golden Globe for cowriting a popular movie. But there is a certain undeniable interconnectivity between the two, mainly its love, nay, obsession with movies, screenplays, directing, etc.  And so here the story follows a twisted and disturbing symbiosis between a screenwriter and a director. The writer can write, albeit he is a complete failure at all other pursuits, a man who never really became realized, a story written out and then crossed out, a blank slate. The director can direct (albeit despotically), but he’s an abject failure at writing. So he kidnaps the writer, imprisons the man in his basement and forces him to write for him. This goes on for years. The horrifyingly logical dynamic the two establish somehow produces two hit movies and is poised to spit out the perfect third, the perfection of cinematic achievements, the culmination of all their efforts. If it works. And so in a strangely hypnotic first person stream of consciousness narration this novel unfolds like a surreal dream or possibly a nightmare. It doesn’t feature any likeable characters or any other traditional attractors and yet it works, magnetic in its repelling splendor. There are the obvious comparisons, but Pablo is no James Caan (you gotta go with the movie version, considering the subject here) and this is a way different beast,  there are levels of complacency and volition and codependency that go above and beyond the traditional kidnap victimhood, precisely because Pablo is such a useless sort of person. A failed musician, who lives with his mom, shared a bed with his mom in fact, lives off of his mom, perpetually, prospect free, without having a job, a love interest or even much in a way of passions, the man who has become so accustomed to erasing his stories that he in fact became a man easy to erase. Weirdly enough, all these years of being a nonentity have seemingly prepared him for a sort of excessive minimalism of a nonlife, so in his basement he manages to survive on books, ukulele (carbon fiber, fancy), some old Playboys, music of his one and only favorite band and, of course, writing. And he’s the good one here as it were, because the director is essentially a thoroughly morally reprehensible bastard with no redeeming qualities. Although he does make good movies. So this is a story of ambition and talent, the balance of the two. Plus a commentary on the art and ugliness of moviemaking. If you pardon the crudeness, this is a parable about raping one’s muse. And as such it is thoroughly disturbing and very much an acquired taste. Not something easily recommended, but for anyone in a mood for a different and challenging read, this is it. It vaguely reminded me of Reid’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things, although probably  mostly for its mad spinning narrative style. Actually ,Wikipedia tells me that one is being turned into a movie, which should be a very interesting experience. But yeah, this book was a weird one. It read quickly, but certainly a memorable story. Disturbing and claustrophobic, much like a basement. For very specific moods and mindsets and appetites. Thanks Netgalley.
Was this review helpful?
Disturbingly Good.....
    ......but also wearisome 
Disturbingly Good.....
    ......but at times too monotonous- tedious - and lacking diversified variety.  
Disturbingly Good.....
    ......but many times I chucked inside at the entire premises of the story - making a little fun for myself: I talked back to the characters - butt my nose into their business - their dialogue - and gave the characters a piece of my mind!   ( grumbling is actually a private enjoyable activity I’ve discovered when one must add a little more excitement to their reading).   

So.....let me be clear....I’m glad I read this book!  But....I felt I clearly made lemonade out of lemons - more than once.....crossing out chatter - adding chatter - basically 
Kvetching a little too much with my own internal ‘me-discussions’. 

First off....who in their right mind would kidnap anyone - keep them captive in their basement....threaten their life....and expect artistic brilliance from them? 
NOBODY!!!  Nobody was with a sound mind!  

So now that we got that out-of-the-way that none of the characters were with sound mind....I found this book to be very funny at times....
Disturbingly Funny! 

Pablo, from Neuquen, born in Zapala, took a plane that carried him to San Martin de Los Andes and ultimately into Santiago Salvatierra’s basement. 

Santiago Salvatierra’s, an Argentine film director, was one of the most important film directors in the world.
He kidnapped Pablo...kept him in his basement... and threatened his life.... telling Pablo that “you’re going to help me change the world. A world that hasn’t changed artistically in decades”. 

“Click”
“I burst out crying and Santiago came over and hugged me (the butt of the gun nestled against my back), and he whispered into my ear that together we were going to make art”.

It took Santiago several days to bring him down a mattress. He waited until he handed over the first act. 
He waited until he made sure that the first act worked and that he worked.  

Santiago told Pablo that down in the basement he wouldn’t lack for anything. Ha!
His meals - prepared by a woman named Norma ( from Mexico)... served him Chile poblano and cilantro for just about every meal.  ( which overtime just gave him hemorrhoids)...yikes! 
Once a week he got a vitamin supplement with a glass of homemade kombucha. 

Pablo says....
“Though this might sound ridiculous, I think I’ve gotten used to life as an imprisoned screenwriter”. 
“Basemented”. 

Pablo writes in his notebook from 6am to 7am. 
Then he crosses out what he wrote from 7am to five after 7.  
Then he pretended to be asleep until Santiago came  down into the basement at 7:10am, with his chair,  a little dish of fruit, a cup of coffee, and the printouts of the scenes with his notes.  
Then they work together until afternoon.  

Oh.... and of course Pablo needed to allow time masturbate ( we needed this information, why?).... but when that wasn’t satisfying enough Pablo tells Santiago that he needs more.    In comes Anita to pleasure Pablo in his working-prison-basement.  We don’t care at all about the sex but the dialogue hilarious.  

NORMA, the housekeeper, brought over from Mexico ....was probably my favorite character at all. SHE DOESN’T CARE FOR CONVERSATIONS!  Had to love this this woman!!!

Pablo’s contemplations and reflections while held captive — writing ✍️ and crossing out what he just wrote - looking back at his past - sharing about his parents - etc. in his crossed-out-notebook were a combination of frazzling and fascinating.

The two guys ‘together’....Pablo and Santiago....silly ‘boys’.....were trying to turn their buffoonery into the best artistic masterpiece ever written.   
Good luck with that!!!!

Nutty crazy unique book - actually a little addicting - and not because of the action…which there is a little…but I admit the writing held my interest ( the gloominess was definitely felt).....and even though I bitched along side with my new character-friends in my head.....shhhhhh, I kinda liked them all!  

.........and you GOTTA LOVE THE BOOK COVER!!!

4 stars....
Thank You, Netgalley, Scribner, and Nicolas Giacobone.
Was this review helpful?
Santiago Salvatierra was reputed to be "...the greatest Latin American film director of all time...his genius, the one that bursts from the screen, vanishes at the sight of a blank page...he can't write...[but] fancies...himself a screenwriter." When Pablo, an Argentine "novelist-turned-screenwriter", sent Santiago a copy of his screenplay he maintained, I "lost my life, both my physical and intellectual life..." by accepting an invitation to spend a weekend at Santiago's San Martin de los Andes Estate.

At gunpoint, Pablo was brought to the basement of Santiago's estate and forced to write a screenplay that would "change the history of world cinema". Pablo was given a mattress, a lamp with faulty illumination, and an old MacBook Pro without Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or Ethernet. "I've gotten used to life as an imprisoned screenwriter. No, not imprisoned; basemented."

Santiago planned to take credit for Pablo's screenplay. Daily, he visited the basement, always critical of Pablo's newly written scenes and made "deplorable" comments. "You have to hurry up, Pablo...I don't want you to write in a rush...But you do have to hurry..." Pablo's thoughts in his crossed-out diary, "I function when I write under the illusion that no one is expecting me to write anything"...But what are my choices? I am "afraid of dying from a bullet to the brain."

Pablo's musings in his "captivity journal" are painful, exhausting, redundant, and darkly funny. He describes the maid who brought his meals, food which caused him to fart excessively and develop hemorrhoids. He constantly clashes with Santiago...creative differences. Pablo seems to be losing himself.

The process of writing a screenplay is explored as well. The composition of the screenplay includes the use of creating scene reversals ."...the twist...what pushes...someplace unexpected...a subtle twist...enough to leave us a little lost." Fascinating stuff! 

"The Crossed-Out Notebook: A Novel" by Nicolas Giacobone is an original, baffling, challenging, enjoyable read, however, it might not be everyone's cup of tea.

Thank you Scribner and Net Galley for the opportunity to read and review "The Crossed-Out Notebook".
Was this review helpful?
Wow. What a wild ride!  About a man named Pablo who is kidnapped and forced to write screenplays for a famous director. You’re not sure how much is reality or just happening in the narrators head. Definitely reminded me of Misery. I’ll definitely be thinking about this one for quite a while and that is the mark of a good book to me. It was difficult to read at times and repetitive but very interesting. Thanks to #scribner and #netgalley for letting me read and review this.
Was this review helpful?
This book was fascinating and infuriating and repetitive and unusual and original all wrapped up in one...

 It's ostensibly the tale of a writer held captive by a director and forced to produce screenplays to which the director will claim sole credit. But it's much more than that, and that's where it both succeeds and fails in my opinion. It succeeds in its exploration of what it means to be trapped, but physically and inside one's own head. Also in what it means to be a writer, to be an artist, to be original, to be lost, and to be a captive to one's own head space. But it occasionally falls into its own oubliette of cleverness, as so many non - traditional narratives do I think, and that was where it occasionally lost me. 

It's an unusual narrative that flips back and forth in time and space, both external and internal, and the flips happen without any notice or any explanation. I'm not usually a fan of non-traditional narratives. I tend to prefer my stories to be slightly more linear than not, since I generally read to be entertained as opposed to be exploring an art form. That said, a non-traditional narrative can be an art form, and still entertaining and engaging, when crafted well. For the most part, this one is crafted very well. I did occasionally find it repetitive and painful to read, although both in hindsight and at the time I realized that may well have been intentional. This is a story about a man who was losing himself, and in that regard the flow of the narrative is spot-on. It does make for a slightly difficult and at times a bit tedious read though, but I do think it ultimately achieved its goal. 

And as always, I'm all the more impressed with the trickiness of the narrative and the cleverness of the language, given that this is a translation. The concept of translation is important in the story, and I think that was a cool resonant piece given the way the book was written. 

It was odd and at times strange and infuriating, but also highly original and I'm glad that I read it on the whole - but it isn't going to be a book for everyone...

This review will run on my blog (www.Jill-Elizabeth.com) in September 2019.
Was this review helpful?
I love the words "ode to creativity" in the copy for this novel, because that is truly the heartbeat of THE CROSSED OUT NOTEBOOK. Funny, unexpected, challenging, wry and fiercely original, the pages of this notebook--er, novel--just fly.
Was this review helpful?
Yes, this short novel has some aspects of Misery, and those are the things that work best for it, when Pablo’s feeling of control falters. But, overall, it didn’t quite hit for me.
Was this review helpful?
I tried this book a few times, but I just couldn't seem to get interested in it. 

I would like to thank netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy free of charge. This is my honest and unbiased opinion of it.
Was this review helpful?
Did not finish. Dull, boring and drawn out. I did not enjoy it at all. It was like watching paint dry.
Was this review helpful?