Oranges for Magellan

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Pub Date 13 Dec 2022 | Archive Date 14 Feb 2023

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Everything good in Joe Magellan's life—family, teaching career, sanity—has been undermined by his baffling compulsion: breaking the world record for flagpole-sitting. Through the years Joe has made seven attempts at the record, his best effort a measly eleven days. Oranges begins on January 20, 1981, the day Joe is ‘cured’ of his compulsion at Dr. Malcolm Kerridge's 'Out, Damn Obsession!' seminar. Alas, the charlatan's cure does not take. Joe immediately stumbles upon the perfect flagpole, sixty feet high, and, before long, to the horror of his wife and son, he climbs up and settles in on a ten-foot-square redwood platform for one final assault on the record, while Clover and Nate run the little café below. Joe's pursuit of the pole-sitting grail is disrupted by Clover's budding artistic aspirations; by Nate's rebellion at J. Edgar Hoover Middle School; by the seductions of Joe by an ex-seminar mate and of Clover by an art gallery owner; by the commercialization and massive popularity of the pole-sitting enterprise; and by the ruthless Shipwreck Blake, who both terrorizes and inspires Joe.

Everything good in Joe Magellan's life—family, teaching career, sanity—has been undermined by his baffling compulsion: breaking the world record for flagpole-sitting. Through the years Joe has made...

A Note From the Publisher

Oranges for Magellan is Richard Martin's first published novel. His work has appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, North American Review, Chicago Review, Night Train, Greensboro Review, Adirondack Review, and elsewhere. He lives with his wife Paris in Santa Monica, California.

Oranges for Magellan is Richard Martin's first published novel. His work has appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, North American Review, Chicago Review, Night Train...

Advance Praise

"Not many storytellers would have the courage or imagination to attempt a novel about a failed flagpole sitter, and even fewer would have the chops to bring it off. But I now know there is at least one such writer, and his name is Richard Martin. His Oranges For Magellan is a madly lyrical romp of a tale, told with great authority and populated with characters you won’t easily forget, especially the self-doubting but big-hearted flagpole sitter himself, a reluctant hero you’ll want to hang with until the tender and redemptive end. Highly recommended!"

—Jim Nichols, author of Blue Summer, winner of the 2021 Maine Book Award for Fiction

"In his wonderful debut novel, Oranges for Magellan, Richard Martin has created a marvelously comic yet profound quest tale for our times. The hero is Joseph Galileo Magellan, a burnt-out substitute teacher who journeys no farther than to the top of an orange flagpole in an attempt to break the world’s record for flag-pole sitting. As in all quest stories, there are helpers and tricksters, temptations and obstacles, including the interior ones of self-doubt and guilt. The novel shimmers with vivid images, brilliant allusions, and a free-flowing play of thought, emotion, and paradoxical action within inaction. Thought-provoking and hilarious, intelligent and moving, Oranges for Magellan will speak deeply to anyone who has ever felt driven to do something difficult, however absurd or seemingly impossible. To anyone who tries, fails, and tries again. And to those who accommodate a loved one’s passionate pursuit. In short, it speaks to our humanity. I loved every page."

—Joanna Higgins, author of In the Fall They Leave, A Soldier’s Book, A Novel of the Civil War; Dead Center, and other novels

"Oranges for Magellan tickles and enchants from page one, an underdog tale doubling as a rollicking safari into the human heart and its mysteries. From a lively corner of crumbling Reagan-era Los Angeles, Richard Martin’s diverse cast of lovably flawed misfits explores the weirdest corners of our universal experience, asking: Are we crazy to love who we love, to need what we need? The world needs Martin’s voice – wise and funny, determinedly unjaded, a scalpel paring away the unnecessary to reveal all that’s sacred and marvelous in the humblest endeavors."

—Brendan McKennedy, former Fiction Editor at Greensboro Review

"Reading Oranges for Magellan was a wild experience for me. This is Los Angeles in the early 1980s, and author Richard Martin animates that city with often exaggerated details that make the book come alive. The main characters – flagpole sitter Joe, his wife Clover, and son Nate – are flawed to the bone, but that’s their beauty, their depth. They lie, they tell the truth, they suffer behind their masks. There’s as much humor as sorrow in this story – in the dialogue, the relationships, the outrageous events – and most of the time the two are merged. As I was reading I had no idea what was going to happen next or how the book would end. The writing is as visual as watching a film, and I loved every minute of it."

—Olivia Dresher, author of A Silence of Words and editor of In Pieces: An Anthology of Fragmentary Writing

"Not many storytellers would have the courage or imagination to attempt a novel about a failed flagpole sitter, and even fewer would have the chops to bring it off. But I now know there is at least...

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Featured Reviews

Oranges for Magellan is that rare book that expertly weaves deep thought to everyday foibles.

When Jo Magellan, struggling to overcome his obsession with flagpole-sitting, comes across a flagpole perfect for his endeavour, he vows to make one last effort to beat the world record in flagpole-sitting. What follows is a humorous adventure full of frequent eccentrics, adventures high and low, ratcheting tension amongst the Magellans, and a visit from Joe's hero, Shipwreck Blake himself.

The writing is fun and light. It envelopes you in the narrative from the get-go, managing to discuss some really dark aspects of society without bringing the general tone of the story down. The characters unfold gradually, revealing their hopes and fears and ambitions and desires. And for all these secrets the author lets us in on, we appreciate them and want to commend them for plodding on.

This is the kind of book that will keep you reading and guessing. Will he break the world record? How will the family navigate it all?

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I enjoyed this book. The writing had a bit of a whimsical feel to it. Thanks for letting me check it out!

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Much to my surprise, I loved Oranges for Magellan. Filled with self doubt and the thoughts we all have about our personal dreams, it brings to life the trials and triumphs of fulfilling those dreams. Well done!

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Very good. This is written with depth and some humor, and includes an enjoyable writing style. This one will stick with me for a while. I enjoyed the unusual aspects of the story, especially the characters. Recommended.

I really appreciate the free ARC for review!!

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St. Simeon Stylites the Elder (c. 388-459) followed the ancient ascetic discipline of stylitism, or column sitting. As a test of endurance, this fifth century monk spent thirty-seven years living on a meter-square platform atop a nine-foot high pillar.

"St. Simeon Stylites" excerpt from poem written in 1833

"Although I be the basest of mankind...
Unfit for earth, unfit for heaven...
This not be all in vain that thrice ten years...
Patient on this tall pillar I have borne
Rain, wind, frost, heat, hail, damp, and sleet, and snow;...
I do not breath, not whisper, any murmur of complaint...
I drowned the whooping of the owl with sound of pious hymns and psalms, and sometimes saw
An angel stand and watch me...

-Alfred, Lord Tennyson

"I dare to believe I can do this. It's easier to believe the impossible might happen than it is to believe the probable is all there is. The probable is not a happy place to live." so said Joseph Galileo Magellan. Joe was a burnt-out substitute English teacher. For a decade, he had tried to teach "amoral ragamuffins" who often populated his English classes. According to Joe's wife Clover, "You talk books-you could have those kids eating out of your hand...but you need a permanent position first." Joe, however, considered pole-sitting to be his calling.

At age thirteen, Joe Magellan jury rigged a platform in an orange tree and read books...Twain, Salinger, Hitchcock, a way of dealing with his father's death. He was fascinated by the story of an old bum named "Shipwreck" Blake who achieved the record of sitting atop a flagpole for 444 days. Joe developed a compulsion...flagpole-sitting, "a wild drive...that summons you. Get up here and sit...don't ask comes back wilder than ever." Apparently, that was why a twelve weekend seminar called "Out, Damned Obsession" was bound to fail.

An ugly steel flagpole, next to a greasy spoon called Charley's Spot, was where Joe made his final attempt to break Shipwreck's world record. But first, Joe insisted upon painting the steel pole a vibrant orange. A ten by ten foot redwood platform needed to be built. The purchase of Charley's diner, then turned into Clover's Patch, would help facilitate Joe's quest. "No sane woman with self respect would put up with Joe." Ten year old son Nate's behavior would barrel out of control.

In Joe's words, "I went up in the late afternoon, in honor of the orange tree days...If I got down before the sign read 445(days), it would not be hot cocoa waiting, but a sorrow cold as Dante's Hell." Joe sat atop the redwood platform with the orange flagpole he thoughtfully named "Simeon". The residents of the depressed Los Angeles area, a veritable melting pot of cultures, made nary a comment or complaint. A little girl, however, commented about the big bird house....was it a cuckoo's nest?

What were the ramifications of Joe Magellan's flagpole-sitting? On one hand, a street revitalization project would bolster failing businesses. News media could increase viewership with interviews and footage. Advertisers perhaps might find an angle that worked for them. On the downside, a tall, old Black man, Shipwreck" Blake, himself, tried to thwart Joe's attempt. "You're soft Magellan...son, until nothin' matters but sittin', you ain't got a chance in the world."

"Oranges for Magellan" by Richard Martin is a snapshot of Joe Magellan's world of flagpole-sitting and a commentary on the "heartache...heaped upon this playful boy [son Nate] and this kind-souled woman [wife Clover]...flagpole-sitting was a selfishness of demonic proportion...". When all was said and done, would a new flagpole-sitting record be achieved?

Thank you Regal House Publishing and Net Galley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Oranges for Magellan
by Richard Martin
Oranges for Magellan is Richard Martin's first published novel. His work has appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, North American Review, Chicago Review, Night Train, Greensboro Review, Adirondack Review, and elsewhere. He lives with his wife Paris in Santa Monica, California.

Thanks very much to NetGalley and to Mindbuck Media for the arc .
I LOVED this book. Was a Home run for a first published novel for Richard Martin! I loved the Magellan family, Joe, Clover, and Nate, and the wildly he/she Jinx. This was one of those books you felt you were seeing and smiling as they all went thru the flag pole sitting.
BRAVO and looking forward to getting my copy in hardcover!!

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Thanks to Regal House Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in return for my honest opinion.
What a great first novel by Richard Martin, Oranges for Magellan is a book about flagpole sitting and the life of Joseph Magellan in his effort to break the world record of 444 of sitting on a flagpole. As expected the action takes place in Los Angeles and we follow Joe as he graduates for an Anti-Obsession classes for his lifelong passion of sitting on flagpoles, and the next day decides he realizes he is not cured of this and begins the process of going back up again to break the record of Shipwreck Blake. He has a specially made platform built and up he climbs. Very well written, as most chapters are narrated by Joe, but there are also some narrated by his wife Clover and son Nate. Joe introduces us to a host of characters, from a transvestite movie theater owner, to the Anti-Obsession guru who eventually tries to outdo Joe, we have news reporters, as well as school officials, and even more flagpole sitters and even Shipwreck Blake shows up at various times to both torment and encourage Joe. But while Joe is sitting 70 feet in the air a lot is going on with his family, much of which is not good. Joe runs the entire gamut of emotions and fears as he attempts to break the record, and even though he is not with his family, his deliberate action of flagpole sitting has negative effects upon both Clover and Nate. This book is at times funny, sad and insightful, it is a fascinating look at flagpole sitting and Los Angeles in the early '80's.

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Oranges for Magellan can be a light read, or it can be read at a much deeper level. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
I couldn’t help but delve deep into the nuances and themes within, and I wanted to understand the characters, their choices, their flaws.
If you’re looking for a light read, don’t let my review put you off, you’ll enjoy it. If you’re looking for a literary masterpiece, this comes as close as any contemporary fiction. The writing is superb.
Wow, this has to be one of the best novels I’ve read this year. It’s written in the voices of Joe, the flagpole sitter and Clover, an artist and married to Joe, with the occasional voice of Nate, their young son.
Joe is pompous, self centred, controlling and a failed teacher, which makes it easy to relate to him at times and to laugh at him and his idiosyncrasies. Despite his experiences and journey, he remains as self absorbed and opinionated as ever.
Clover is left to fend for herself and Nate. She is on an emotional rollercoaster, full of self doubt, and Joe’s antics force her and Nate into an isolated and lonely existence. Joe can never settle in one place and that means that Clover and Nate can never develop friendships and relationships that are so very important to women and kids. Joe cannot accept that Clover could achieve anything without him and is convinced that she is completely reliant on him when, for the most part, it’s the other way round. I would say that Clover is in an emotionally abusive relationship and this explains much of her journey.
The voices of Clover and Joe are very different and that’s a tribute to the writing skills of this author. I look forward to reading more from this author.

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Joe Magellan, a sometime-writer and substitute teacher, is obsessed with breaking the record for flagpole sitting in 1980 Los Angeles. Can he do it while maintaining his sanity, and how will his wife and son left behind on the ground cope? Eccentric characters, over-the-top-absurd dialogue, and Joe's clash with his nemesis Shipwreck Blake makes this an enjoyable read, while frequent allusions to God, Biblical passages, and Simeon the Stylite (who spent 30 years on top of a pillar in the Middle Ages) provide an unexpected spiritual depth. Martin effectively portrays Joe's quest as he oscillates between cashing in on his celebrity and wanting to make the world a better place, all while struggling to be a good husband and father.

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One great story and very interesting how this man named Joe was a P Pole Sitter. You wanted to break this man's record named shipwreck bill This man had a lot of problems in the book he went to some rehab and was a substitute teacher as well We had a wife named clover and a son named ned They were driving home from the ceremony and they haven't upon an old diner. So they decided to buy it. And then Joe decided to become a pu Pole sitter And he goes up there and all those crazy stuff starts and happening. Clover his wife decides to revamp the diner to something better. She uses Joe money Because of all the possibilities getting from sitting on this pulp. Joe also read these different books to give him insight why be still up there. Ned his son has some problems in school and the principals really understanding what's happening. Clover his wife starts to paint and meets this man named Sam. She comes to fall into this person and starts drinking and things start going really sideways then. Joe also had a problem with the woman who came up to visit him. It's an interesting book how you can be up there and not really participate in things but watch your life go around in crazy circles. There's a lot of different angles and different things in this book about the ending of the book you'll find out what the title really means.

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Oranges for Magellan is a truly beautiful piece of writing that will leave its reader questioning almost everything.

It is deep, clever, witty, and humorous all in one and- being based on themes of flagpole sitting record attempts- not something an ordinary author could pull off.

Though I do not have many complaints, I do feel that the quality of the book could have been strengthened had we got to experience a deeper, more intrinsic connection to the characters. The genre itself is not something I usually read and so at times I found it quite repetitive and mildly boring, but this is definitely a personal preference thing!

A stunning debut, thank you NetGalley and Richard Martin himself.

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In Oranges for Magellan, substitute teacher Joe Galileo Magellan, heads 60ft up a flagpole in attempt to break the world flagpole-sitting record (as you do). Meanwhile, Joe’s wife Clover works to turn a rundown diner into a Bohemian hotspot, his son Nate gets caught between his warring parents, and Shipwreck Blake, the current world flagpole sitting champion, plays dirty tricks to keep his record intact.

I don’t know how I feel about this one. It’s intelligent, it’s funny, it’s well-written, (the dialogue is especially good), the characters and story are unique, and I enjoyed Joe’s musings on philosophy, literature, and 1980s politics. But I had a hard time caring about Joe. Even as his backstory came out and I should have been sympathetic, I just found him... annoying. Sorry Joe. He’s selfish, homophobic and sometimes sexist. There’s nothing wrong with unlikeable characters, but I wasn't always sure the book meant him to be. In fairness, Joe’s beliefs are in line with the beliefs of his era; aka he’s an authentically-written character, just not one I wanted to spend time with.

I’m giving Oranges for Magellan 4 stars because I think I had a case of reader-book mismatch and this will be a great fit for other readers. And also because its craft is 4-star worthy.

Thank-you to NetGalley and Regal House Publishing for the opportunity to review an ARC of this book.

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The Southern California setting, and appealing cover design seemed to promise a great plot. This entertaining tale is unique, but be prepared for strange antics from a unique but dysfunctional family. A large part of the family’s problems are connected to the father’s obsession with low-budget flagpole sitting, The one son wonders why he has to have such a strange father, and his mother wonders how she can keep the family afloat. She hopes to have a thriving coffee shop in the inland suburbs of Los Angeles county, but her hopes are futile.

The numerous but brief chapters are filled with lots of dialogue about the never-improving family dynamics, along with a wide variety of literary allusions. Readers are likely to continue turning the pages in search of heavy intellectual commentary on modern society. Perhaps this reviewer simply missed it and you should read it and form your own opinion.

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First book of the year, and first favourite!

This book was released in December 2022, but because of the bustle of the festive season, it’s been a slow read for me. When I finally had time this year, I couldn’t put it down.

Joe Magellan is a man obsessed, and his family can’t stand it. He’s a flagpole sitter: he…sits at the top of flagpoles, on a platform purpose-built for it. “Treatment” for his obsession has only seemed to work, because just after Joe graduates, he decides he must break the world record of 444 days set by his nemesis, “Shipwreck” Blake.

This is such a warm, quirky, and endlessly funny book, mostly about a man and his family. Joe—navel-gazing narcissist and very human—is very compelling. His obsession and the reasons for it are well-explored—a finely crafted study of human drive. The supporting cast are colourful, fully-developed, and very memorable. The setting, above a street in Los Angeles, is vividly imagined. And the story is a very fun—a rollicking—ride.

I loved this heartwarming novel, and I think you will too.

Themes: Family (esp. fathers and sons), marriage, addiction, friendship.

Thank you to Regal House Publishing and to NetGalley for access to this advance reader’s copy.

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This off-beat novel appears quirky and light yet it also contains much depth looking at self doubt and the obsessive drive to achieve ones goals.

The story is completely original yet universally relatable. Joe is self centred yet very human and his story is compelling.

The writing immerses you into the story from page one and is very entertaining but also delivers so much more.

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