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2.77  ·  Rating details ·  304 ratings  ·  72 reviews
Hailed as "the contemporary American master of the love story" (Publishers Weekly), bestselling author Scott Spencer takes us on a psychologically intense—and brilliantly funny—journey inside the world of international sex tourism.

Avery Jankowsky is a thirty-seven-year-old Manhattan writer scraping by on freelance assignments. Despite his lack of ambition, and very much to
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published March 11th 2008 by Ecco (first published March 1st 2008)
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Average rating 2.77  · 
Rating details
 ·  304 ratings  ·  72 reviews

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Mar 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: sophisticated readers
“You can’t always care about what you do, and how you behave.”
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 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 dia
Mar 26, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Avery Jankowsky is a middle-aged, free-lance writer whose world is upended when his younger lover informs him that she has had an affair. To help him move on, a generous uncle offers him a spot on a high-end Scandinavian sex tour. Though Avery's original intent is to participate in the tour only as a detached undercover journalist, it's not long before he is swept up in a riptide of events well beyond his emotional control.

Willing got off to a promising start for me. Spencer is a skilled wordsmi
Mar 16, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Scott Spencer is at his best when he writes about love/desire that grows exponentially until it becomes destructive to both lovers and the entire world around them. In that sphere, he is a master - though I am not one to expect a writer to be a one-trick pony.

I was thrilled to find that he had a new book out and, while reading Willing, I was thoroughly engrossed... But not really enjoying it. To me, it read like a draft of something that started out as one idea (i.e. a guy who is messed up emot
Jul 19, 2008 rated it it was ok
Scott Spencer is such a terrific writer, I'd been waiting a long time to read this book, and I wanted to do it slowly, savouring all the descriptions and obsession.
The book has such a terrific start. A guy with four fathers, a girfriend who is cheating, and allows the protagonist to read her journal. I think he could have gone a long ways on these two themes...but after the sex tour started it went downhill...
The characters were one-dimensional. I didn't want to know any of one intrigu
Feb 06, 2017 rated it did not like it
This book falls so short of what it purports to deliver that it is practically useless to try and enumerate the ways. I'll just hit the main highlights, IMHO:

- the book is about an "Around the World Sex Tour" that the protagonist, Avery Jankowsky goes on as some sort of vague punishment for his ex-girlfriend - she doesn't want me? I'll PAY women to have sex with me, that'll show her how desirable I am! - and the tour is only scheduled to go to Eastern Europe. Meanwhile it is constantly referred
Jul 24, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: writers-fiction
Such a promising start--no one writes about obsessive love as well as Scott Spencer did in Endless Love, a great book which was, unfortunately, made into an abysmally bad film (moral of that tale: read contracts carefully, and retain some choices, namely, no Brooke Shields, and no Lionel Richie/Diana Ross theme songs).
But I digress. While Spencer created a near-perfect tale with Endless Love, Willing misfires after a most-compelling beginning. We're introduced to Avery Jankowsky, a 37-year old
Ryan Chapman
Apr 14, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I'm perennially interested in novels about young American men who travel, and I'd never read Spencer before. He certainly is a lyricist, often taking your breath away with that perfectly turned phrase, the exacting metaphor.

The book is about a slight failure of an Avery Jankowsky rent asunder by his younger girlfriend's infidelity. His first-person narration is very seductive--you feel his plight, and identify with his pain. Spencer deftly reveals that much of what is wrong with Avery is in fac
Feb 27, 2009 rated it it was ok
This is a novel with a great idea for a plot suffering from multiple genre disorder. Is it farce? Comedy? Literary fiction? It's possible for a book to be at least two of those things, maybe all three, but this book doesn't quite achieve any of them. Avery Jankowsky, a freelance writer who's not quite making a living as a writer but is doing too well to quit, tells us the story of his many fathered childhood; his disappointing attempts at relationships; and how they all lead him to take an all e ...more
Sean Beaudoin
Jul 02, 2009 rated it liked it
Some really good, honest stuff about relationships and the mania of break-ups. Reminded me in spots of Saul Bellow. Spencer has a real talent for descriptive one liners. There are dozens of beautiful phrases throughout. Hard to believe with all that said, this is a book about a writer going on a sex tour. It's really not that salacious. It's more about people and observed behavior. And the obsessions of the flesh. So many strings were left hanging at the end, it's hard for me to give this a hig ...more
Jun 22, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: 40 year old men who still live with their mothers
Recommended to Kurt by: My personal librarian, Candy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Basically Scott Spencer could write about staring at a fly on a wall and I'd read it. He is funny, direct, writes about love and sex, men and women in the most interesting, sophisticated and humorous ways. His intelligence is palpable and he has nothing to prove, only his one-of-a-kind world view to offer. ...more
Mar 30, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: eh
I had expectations that this book would delve much deeper into the questions of morality and self-restraint just turned into a raunchy story about a sex tour. The author tried to return to the larger questions towards the end of the book but it wasn't enough for me. ...more
Paul Wilner
Mar 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing

This is a piece on the book I wrote recently...
Erin Lockard
I am dying to read. Heard about on NPR today. Anyone read this?
Apr 17, 2008 rated it did not like it
No likable characters, I don't understand why it is so popular. ...more
Oct 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Men behaving badly has been dominating the television landscape with shows like Mad Men and Californification, and now it has entered into literature with Willing. Well, it’s not exactly new territory considering hard-boiled detective stories with the leading man getting business and pleasure confused. But most of those characters do such things without referencing their own morality, and this is what separates author Scott Spencer’s narrator Avery Jankowsky.

Avery is a down on his luck freelance
Mar 20, 2008 rated it it was ok
I saw Spencer read from Willing last week at McNally Robinson's in New York. As a premise, this novel had a lot of promise, but became tacky and melodramatic. A hornet's nest of men. I'm such a fan of Spencer's Endless Love and Waking The Dead--he's one of the great writers on obsessive love/desire. But Willing is an example of how "craft" upstages content. What does it mean to be "good at what you do," if what you're "good" at (technically) rings hollow?

What starts off as a kind of fictional c
Aug 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Willing is about a man who goes on a sex tour to a few relatively obscure foreign countries, and is paid a rather handsome sum to write a book about it. I’m guessing that such an assignment might not be unappealing to a number of male writers.

I think, to read Mr. Spencer, one must not be sexually squeamish, as there is something in every one to send a few shock waves. But the way he talks about such things, so naturally, I can’t help but get a picture of the kind of person Mr. Spencer might be.
Dec 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
Scott Spencer's strengths:
* Often funny
* Psychological insights about love/relationships that you'll re-read
* Terrific metaphors

This book exhibits all of these. The plot concerns a 37-year-old freelance writer, Avery Jankowsky, whom Spencer contrives to have a serious need for cash combine with an opportunity from a well-connected uncle to go on a European sex tour for rich American businessmen at no cost to Avery. Having arranged with an editor to sell a story about these kinds of tours for a h
Geoffrey Kleinman
May 15, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Only Die Hard Scott Spencer Fans
Scott Spencer is a great writer, but 'Willing' is just a good book. This book has such promise, a guy flees a failing relationship plagued by deceit and infidelity by taking his uncle up on an offer for a once in a life time first class sex tour around the world. The lead character grapples with his feelings and emotions as he travels on this tour. At times its profound, and then it can turn almost maddening. The book gathers some great steam only to fail completely in the final act.

Spencer has
Dec 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, travel
I checked this book out from the library based on half-listening to an interview with the author on NPR, maybe Fresh Air. I incorrectly expected it to be a non-fiction look at the sex tourism world, with a focus on areas other than Southeast Asia. Instead, it is one step removed, being a novel based on the protagonist, Avery Jankowsky, getting a book deal to write about the sex tourism industry based on his personal experience on a sex tour in northern Europe. Avery gets a free seat from his unc ...more
Mar 19, 2008 rated it it was ok
I heard an interview with this author on NPR and it sounded intriguing so after having on my TBR for about a year I finally read it. The story is about a journalist who is offered an all expenses paid "sex vacation" to Easter Europeam countries. He is prompted to take the offer after his girlfriend dumps him and his finances seem to be falling apart. He gets the bright idea to chronicle his experience in a tell all book and actually gets some lucrative offers.

Despite the sex related theme the bo
Adra Cole Benjamin
Mar 28, 2008 rated it liked it
I first heard of Scott Spencer and his new book while listening to NPR. I knew immediately I wanted to read it. It was a quick read, with some impressive turns of language and descriptions. Yet, overall, I didn't like the story, nor did I sympathize with any of the characters. I found them to be empty, boring and at times simply obnoxious. Maybe that was his whole point to the story about crossing moral boundaries and human codes of conduct. Whatever the case, I am on the fence about recommendin ...more
Oct 12, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: scott spencer fans
Interesting take on a man with a broken heart trying to get over his maternal issues (and man issues) by going on a free European sex tour. Well, the narrator is interesting, sympathetic, and descriptive which tends to be Spencer's thing when having a first-person male narrator. The beginning had me with the back & forth between Avery and his adulterous girlfriend but the hijinks and massive amount of characters on the sex tour get a bit overwhelming and it wasn't until I was 3/4 of the way thro ...more
Stephen Redwood
Jan 02, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
The writing is great: fluent, tons of sharp metaphors rolling off the page, and tremendously insightful. The story can't fail to engage curiosity, given that it explores sexual mores through the experiences of a hard-up writer who is gifted the chance to participate in an up-market sex tour. But the constant self reflection that floods the book begins to feel a bit self indulgent and I found myself wondering at times if this was more a study of neurosis than an investigation of male libido. The ...more
Dec 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
I really like this author. His writing - sentence construction and flow, language use, behavioral insight/maturity - is just lovely. There are always surprises, usually funny ones; great sense of humor and absurdity. He makes some ballsy choices that make ne happy as a reader. I like Jonathan Franzen too - Spencer is like an older, smarter (=more mature), less self-conscious iteration. Spencer's work seems more distilled and less effortful, the latter *surely* being brought to us by the siamese ...more
Apr 26, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
This began so well, insightful and intriguing, but by the time the main plot got going it had descended into not-particularly-funny farce. The main character, Avery, was initially well-drawn and complex, but seemed to stall once the book got going. Rather than develop due to his experiences he just went round in circles (presumably due to the rather leaden plot device of a bump on the head). All the other characters were so one-dimensional I could hardly keep them straight in my head. There were ...more
Nov 24, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, ebook
A failed literary attempt, at best. Boring, tepid. Giving it two stars because of spencer's prose, otherwise it would be a one star. I felt like a psychiatrist trapped with a patient staring introspectively at, well, not his navel. Too bad. I read this because the author's npr interview was good. Spenser attempts to deal with the subject of the omnipresence of pornographic content. "what does this do to us?" spencer said in the interview. A better novel on the subject is tom wolfe's " i am Charl ...more
Damien Leri
Jan 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
H Gibson
Apr 22, 2018 rated it did not like it
This books deserves barely the tip of a star. Willing reads like a teen boy's sexual fantasy and is every bit as immature and unsatisfying. Perhaps it's about the depravity of mankind or men in general as some kind of theme. Maybe a man's relationship with his mother... I really couldn't say. The protagonist wasn't likable or unlikable. He was boring. The peripheral characters weren't memorable. Willing is decent prose wasted on a trashy story. I loved Spencer's A Ship Made of Paper, however, Wi ...more
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Scott Spencer (b. 1945) is the critically acclaimed, bestselling author of ten novels, including Endless Love and A Ship Made of Paper, both of which have been nominated for the National Book Award. Two of his books, Endless Love and Waking the Dead, have been adapted into films.

He has taught at Columbia University, the University of Iowa, and Williams College, and Bard College's Bard Prison Initi

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