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teddy orloff and the three onions

Teddy Orloff is a baker, whose home and community have been rocked by scarlet fever. His children are stricken and the home under quarantine. As a baker he cannot stay with his family yet he finds a way to slip in at night. Teddy’s wife sends him on a mission to find a perfect onion to make latkes—a certain cure for the fever. Forging into an ice storm, Teddy’s quest grows weird. It is the perfect onion, though, he must acquire, whether it exists or not.

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It is impossible not to luxuriate in the language of Les Epstein's new book, Teddy Orloff and the Three Onions: A Cooking Spiel, a fantasy with depth and humane implications.  Teddy, a baker, undertakes the mission to find the right onion. His is an addictive adventure, not unlike Don Quixote's or Huck and Jim's. " I seek the onion to cure the fever infecting my five beautiful little ones."  The momentum of the journey catapults the reader into many interesting side trips around the corners of which lie a surprise of words and exceedingly inventive rhetoric.  The author does indeed "Cuddle the ironic... hug the symbolic, honor the allegoric."  He pins his tales to many allusions:  F. Scott, Henry Miller, Fonteyn, Pavlova, James Joyce, Joe DiMaggio, Eisenhower's European beach brigade, to name several.  More serious references include horrors of the Holocaust.  "All of us in the shadow of an iron signpost."  "On the opposite side of the door I could hear women, children shrieks, unimaginable pitch." Moreover, " in the camps we fought over turnips. In the camps...Challah we got."  And then, "...three hundred form as created, had God forgotten us?" In Epstein's deft hands, humor abounds, too.  "I see we got Steinbeck for those angry grapes...I like my tortillas flat."  This book attests to the author's genius, his skill in originating an unforgettable trip for the reader.  With more layers than an actual onion, Teddy Orloff and the Three Onions: A Cooking Spiel brims with originality, succeeds in creating a masterful work, highly recommended as a must-read.

Meet the Author
Les Epstein author photo

Les Epstein is a poet, playwright, opera librettist and educator.  His work has appeared in journals in the United States, Philippines, India and the U.K., including SlantThe Bacopa Review,  Mojave River ReviewClinch Mountain Review, and Jelly Bucket as well as the anthologies Heat the Grease (Gnashing Teeth Publishing) and Pain & Renewal (Vita Brevis Press).  His work was honored by the Writers Guild of Gainesville (FL) in 2021 and has been featured in the podcast, “Sunflower Sutras,” broadcast out of Washburn University. His chapbook, “Kip Divided,” will appear from Finishing Line Press in 2022.  As a playwright, his work has been staged by such theaters as the Belfast Maskers (Maine), Greenbrier Valley Theater (WV), Stone’s Throw Dinner Theater (Missouri) and the Roy Arias Studio (New York). He contributed libretti for two operas, Barefoot (1997 premiere) and Miss Lucy (2011 premiere). Cyberwit released a collection of his short plays and libretti (Seven) in 2018.  Epstein’s bi-lingual collaboration with Claudia de Franko, Llorona of the River is available through Silver Birchington Plays. He received undergraduate degrees in Theater Performance and English from Otterbein College, and MA in English from Miami (Ohio) University and continued with studies in Literature at New York University and in Theater Education at The Ohio State University.  He completed his teacher training at Mary Baldwin College.  In addition to work with theater, opera and ballet companies from North Carolina to New York City he spent ten seasons as Education Director and Production Coordinator for Opera/Columbus and another seven as Executive Director for the Children’s Theater of Winston-Salem before settling in as a teacher with Community High School (Roanoke) for which has staged more than thirty-five productions.

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