Three free-floatingâ€”or crisscrossing, if you preferâ€”novellas relating the continuing, creative, and not fully credible adventures of Leib Goldkorn, the Ã…bermensch refugee who first appeared in Epstein's Steinway Quintet (1976). In this telling, he emerges as perhaps the most indomitable Jew to walk through a lion's den since Daniel. Although he was born in Vienna at the turn of the century, Leib Goldkorn's whole life seems much more suited to the New World than the Old. At home everywhereâ€”but seemingly without a fixed addressâ€”Leib, now 97, is a wanderer who's seldom at a loss in new surroundings and seems to run into old friends wherever he goes. In "Ice," we find him stuck in Paris during Kristallnacht. True, it's better than being in Vienna, but the whole continent is starting to look bad. Fortunately, fate intervenes in the person of Daryl Zanuck, who sends off a telegram demanding that he come to L.A. to compose the score for a new Sonja Henie film. "Fire" is a continuation of Leib's Hollywood saga, in which he finds himself conducting a shipboard romance with Carmen Miranda en route to South America, and "Water" puts him still farther afield in the South Seas, where he manages to rescue Esther Williams from a tribe of cannibals. The stories overlap, though, and contain digressions enoughâ€”usually femaleâ€”to make Tristram Shandy (or even Tom Jones) lose his train of thought. There's Leib's beloved Crystal Knight, the most brilliant ingÃ‡nue ever to be airbrushed by Larry Flynt. And Clara, Leib's longsuffering wife, who resurfaces in his memory every so often to remind him that he's an honest man. Most intriguing, perhaps, is the mysterious, inscrutable, and vaguely nefarious ice queen whom Leib finds himself pursuing through the streets of Manhattan with a positively adolescent obsessiveness: Michiko Kakutani. Defies convention in any strict sense, but who cares? Epstein's imagination is as fluid as quicksilver and as volatile as magnesium.