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Willing Hardcover – March 11, 2008

3.4 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Spencer's (Endless Love ) witty and perceptive latest, struggling New York writer Avery Jankowsky has a midlife crisis at 37. Weary of his hand-to-mouth existence and obsessed with never being able to afford to buy an apartment, Avery's anxiety intensifies when he discovers that his younger girlfriend, Deirdre, has been unfaithful. His Uncle Ezra offers to help him get back on track by sending him on a high-end sex tour that includes stops in Reykjavik and Oslo, and Avery gets his big idea: write a book about the experience. One fat advance later, his life would seem golden, but Avery has not reckoned with the complex personalities of the men he is traveling with nor with the long-buried conflicts within himself that come bubbling to the surface as the tour goes on. Although some of the plot isn't entirely convincing, the details from moment to moment are rich, captivating and often hilarious, and the description of Reykjavik's atmosphere dead-on. There's not enough plot for a great novel, but Avery is intensely self-aware and intoxicatingly articulate even when his feelings (and actions) are less than savory. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

Spencer writes of passion with precision and candor in fast-moving novels driven by tumultuous and perverse emotions. After A Ship Made of Paper (2003), Spencer turns satiric in this buoyantly funny yet caustic moral comedy starring a floundering New York writer. His mother’s serial matrimony hasn’t made it easy for Avery Jankowsky to commit to relationships, and now he may have lost his one true love. Avery sinks into the poisonous sea of cyberporn, then accepts his uncle’s gift of a luxury sex tour with stops in Reykjavik, Oslo, and Riga. Avery’s plan is to write a best-selling exposé, but how to make sense of the ensuing insanity? Spencer is masterful in his fresh metaphors and arresting insights into the endless conflict between body and soul. His frank view of a trashed and corrupt world in which men and women struggle to do right is immensely moving, and his subtle alignment of our abuse of women with the pillaging of the earth deepens the resonance of this very human tale of the many faces of love. --Donna Seaman

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco (March 11, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006076015X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060760151
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,978,646 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jill I. Shtulman TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
When an author who I immensely respect -- I devoured other Scott Spencer books -- describes a sex orgy and my reaction is to quickly flip pages, I know that something is amiss. And, in my opinion, something is in his newest novel.

The novel begins promising enough. Avery, a 37-year-old New Yorker with a troubled childhood (he had four fathers while growing up), begins an affair with Deirdre, who eventually betrays him. His uncle, sensing his emotional state, offers to give him a ticket to a very upscale international sex tour. Interesting premise.

But here's where the book begins to go astray. Avery receives a book deal of his own to report on this all-expenses-paid luxury trip. The result is a reportorial style; each participant is reported on, each location, etc. -- without anything coming alive, for this reader.

At one point, Spencer reveals his mission: "If we can't find our way back to where something began, what hope do we have of ever understanding why we are where we are?" The tour explores these questions: our baser instincts versus our higher ones, our freedoms versus our constraints, our past versus our present and future. There are many Oedipal threads that run through the book and the ending, which makes ample use of them, was downright irritating to me.

Scott Spencer is a fine writer who, especially in some of his metaphors, makes it look effortless. He has done better and I'd encourage other readers to explore his earlier works.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In Scott Spencer's latest novel WILLING Avery Jankowsky, the first person narrator, is thirty-seven, a down-and-out writer with not much success in his profession and even less in his love life. He is both the casualty of a brief marriage and an affair with a younger woman Deidre who confesses to him that she has been sleeping with another man. He also is obsessed about his mother's four marriages and his having to change his last name for each new stepfather. To salve his sorrow, his Uncle Ezra sends him on a $135,000 sex tour with stops in Reykjavik, Oslo and Riga. Avery sees his sex junket as a chance to get a good piece of journalism out of the trip as well.

What transpires is often a comedy of errors but with an undercurrent of sadness and weariness under the froth of sexual excess. Such a motley group of fellow prostitute hounds you are unlikely to meet. They provide much of the humor but ultimate sorrow in Mr. Spencer's story. You will meet an aging doctor and his son who is a casualty of the war in Iraq, a former NBA player, a lottery winner who sends postcards back home, a very successful but dishonest businessman who has done jail time, a knife-- as in kitchen-- salesman, a man from three generations of film people-- his father made Bible epics in the 1950's but he is reduced to designing bumper stickers. The list goes on. The so-called top-of-the-line prostitutes do not fare much better under Mr. Spencer's observant eye. Four of these women (Icelandic) who meet the hungry men-- he describes as marching in single file, "like four waitresses coming in for the dinner shift." One of them waves, "like someone in a rowboat signalng for help." Another had the "soft sorrowful gaze of a hospice volunteer."

Mr. Spencer is nothing if not a wordsmith.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Not bad. For fans of "Endless Love." Pretty original. Might make a funny movie but Spencer hasn't had good luck with two movie adaptations of "Endless Love." The second one was worse than the first. And the first was directed by the hack Franco Zefferelli and starred the untalented Brooke Sheilds. The actor who played David was intense and beautiful but apparently never made anotherovie. Too bad. The odious Tom Cruise has a walk on.
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If I had to express one thing about this book it would be: Wow, this man can write! By why stop there? I heard Scott Spencer on my car's radio the other day when tuned to NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross, and even though I arrived at my destination, I stayed seated with my seatbelt in place just to hear him read more excerpts from this unusual story, Willing. This is a book that goes by quickly, even though the structure (a complete lack of dialog punctuation) requires you to read slowly. A writer's writer, Spencer is a master of description and has a keen wit filled with gritty, streetwise originality. From the initial description of his narrator, Avery Jankowsky, to every curious character leading up to and embarking upon an around the world sex tour, which is the heart of this dark tale, possibly the only thing short-changed is the answer to the question, who was the man doing pushups in room 420 of the Hotel Christofer? Other than that, this story holds nothing back.

Avery is a freelance writer in his late 30s, who has just discovered his young girlfriend has been unfaithful. Already damaged by being raised by four fathers and a self-centered mother, he accepts an opportunity presented by his Uncle Ezra to sleep with beautiful women in a series of Nordic countries. It's a $135,000 gift, which leads to a book opportunity that will have enormous financial benefits--thus solving his previous fate of being poor. As if that were the basis of all his problems.

As the trip unfolds, Avery learns there is a very high price to pay for the decisions he's made. "Even the milk from our mother's breast comes with a bill that we are eventually meant to pay." And his mother, Naomi, makes this all very clear.
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