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Willing

de Scott Spencer

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1153202,221 (2.75)1
Thirty-seven-year-old freelance writer Avery Jankowsky is devastated when his girlfriend, Deirdre, confesses that she has been having an affair. Beside himself with jealousy and grief, Avery accepts his uncle Ezra's advice--and his tickets to an all-expenses-paid international sex tour. Sensing a white-hot book idea (and a chance to get back at faithless Deirdre), Avery joins a group of mostly wealthy and accomplished travelers on a mad Nordic whirl, descending ever deeper into a world that is equal parts hilarity and nightmare. From two-time National Book Award finalist Scott Spencer comes a startling tour de force that explores the limits of male restraint, the intoxications of privilege, and the maddening dangers of freedom.… (més)
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“No one really expects you to get your life on firmer footing while you're on a sex tour.” — Scott Spencer, “Willing”

If there's one thing worse than being on a sex tour you don't really want to be on, it's meeting your mother along the way. And so we have the situation in Scott Spencer's 2008 novel “Willing.”

Avery Jankowsky (his fourth surname because he has had four fathers) is a frustrated freelance writer looking for a big idea to fatten his shrinking bank account. Then Deirdre, his girlfriend, reveals she has been unfaithful. So when his uncle offers him a spot, free of charge, on a sex tour featuring high-class European call girls, he views it as the gold mine he has been looking for, as well as perhaps a way to get back at Deirdre.

Off he goes with an assembly of wealthy men, trying to conduct interviews without anyone realizing that is what he is doing. Stops include Iceland, Norway and Latvia. The girls, while interesting, don't help him forget Deirdre. But why does he keep seeing his mother at every hotel?

This sounds like it should be a comic novel, and it certainly has comic elements. Deirdre is a student of Russian history, and she tells Avery she thought an affair with a Russian man might be useful research. And Spencer gives us phrases like "Scarlet A Bomb" and "I knew where the caged bird craps." Still this is serious stuff, and Spencer writes beautifully about the neediness of those who seem to have everything, about the boundlessness of a mother's love and about the power of grace.

It turns out meeting one's mother on a sex tour might not be such a bad thing after all, not if it puts one's life on firmer footing. ( )
  hardlyhardy | Dec 2, 2019 |
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 one of the best endings I've read in his book "Men in Black", but here he has a deus ex machina event that just doesn't work and ultimately denigrates a fairly strong effort. In many ways Willing is an incomplete book with a whiplash ending. Spencer is better than this and so that's what makes reading this book all the more frustration. As I've said with other great writers and books that have missed their mark... What happened to the editor? The book was released by Harper Collins, not too shabby of a publisher, and yet no one saw that the gem of this book gets cracked by a truly awful ending? ( )
  gkleinman | Jul 2, 2008 |
Willing's narrator Avery Jankowsky, having just broken up with his unfaithful girlfriend yet still unable to afford to move out of the Manhattan apartment he shares with her, finds himself in the grip of a severe mid-life crisis. This and the promise of a significant book deal that will enable to him not only to move to a new place but also enjoy financial security for the first time in a long while prompt him to embark on an international sex tour offered to him by a well-meaning uncle. What follows is a penetrating and often amusing look into upscale sex tourism at the hands of a narrator who has always been a "good guy" but is at a loss as to whether he wants to continue in that path. In less capable hands, this could prove to be a particularly loathesome topic, but Spencer imbues his narrator with sharp wit and self-awareness and gives him ample time to muse over the immorality into which he has plunged himself. Somehow Spencer's account manages to deride sex tourism while at the same time cultivating readers' sympathies toward the cast of characters who have paid an ample amount of money to participate in the tour, picking up on the somewhat pathetic nature of the entire process. ( )
  yourotherleft | Apr 12, 2008 |
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So there I was, Avery Jankowsky, New York City, early twenty-first century, not terribly educated in light of all there was to know, but adequately taught in light of what I had to do.
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Thirty-seven-year-old freelance writer Avery Jankowsky is devastated when his girlfriend, Deirdre, confesses that she has been having an affair. Beside himself with jealousy and grief, Avery accepts his uncle Ezra's advice--and his tickets to an all-expenses-paid international sex tour. Sensing a white-hot book idea (and a chance to get back at faithless Deirdre), Avery joins a group of mostly wealthy and accomplished travelers on a mad Nordic whirl, descending ever deeper into a world that is equal parts hilarity and nightmare. From two-time National Book Award finalist Scott Spencer comes a startling tour de force that explores the limits of male restraint, the intoxications of privilege, and the maddening dangers of freedom.

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