A Novel in Fragments
"A spare and perfectly painful little book, Oz Shelach's Picnic Grounds sketches an Israel that you won't see on the news.... With ruthless precision, Shelach's novel plots the terrain of complicity, denial, and shared, unspoken culpability that Israel has crafted for itself over the last half-century."
The Village Voice
"The Israeli writer Oz Shelach... critiqu[es] Middle East politics through the creative fuzz of metaphor and suggestion... in his novel Picnic Grounds (City Lights Books). In one of the book's many narrative fragments, Shelach tells the story of a Haifa botanist who gets banned from a Botanical Society meeting in Tel-Aviv because he finds [in] Israel anemones in which "long strips of white, blue, and purple anemones ran through the thick of the red ones, like veins." Every place and every person in Picnic Grounds are like these anemones-- self-possessed entities interlaced with otherness, running on the blood from someone else's veins."
Josh Kun, San Francisco Bay Guardian
"Had Ernest Hemingway succeeded in writing the novel suggested by the vignettes that punctuate In Our Time, the result might have resembled Oz Shelach's Picnic Grounds: A Novel in Fragments. . . . The novel, Shelach's first, is set in an Israel at once familiar, yet utterly alien...."
"Shelach's prose has an elegant precision borne of his journalistic activities.... [his] ironic understatement provides an eloquent indictment of the ongoing situation in Palestine."
San Francisco Bay Guardian
"Picnic Grounds is a forceful debut whose fragmentary form lends it the feel of a scrapbook – Kodak moments from a society with its guard down and its righteousness momentarily disabled."
Philip Herter, St. Petersburg Times
"Oz Shelach has managed, by pinpointing minutes, to evoke hours, days, years, a whole history. The very pauses in his extraordinary novel are filled with more width of understanding, more depth of compassion than would be possible in a book many times its length."
"Taking responsibility for the destruction of Palestine is a pill still far too bitter for most Israelis to swallow. Stepping outside of home and Hebrew, Oz Shelach takes us on an eerie journey through the archaeology of complicity and denial. Deeply personal, Picnic Grounds is also a profoundly political document that forces us to confront, as James Baldwin put it, 'the price of the ticket,' the heavy debt a state can exact from its people."
"There's something so captivating about these 'fragments,' about their beguiling simplicity, about the things they so eloquently withhold, something so pure and unpretentiously fresh. Oz Shelach, in the first person plural, is probably the most relentlessly restrained cartographer of the current Israeli scene, and this novel is the most intricately subtle commentary on that unsettled scene that I've read in years. A stunning literary achievement."