TO REACH THE CLOUDS: My High Wire Walk Between the Twin Towers

Philippe Petit, Author
Philippe Petit, Author . FSG/North Point $30 (256p) ISBN 978-0-86547-651-6
Reviewed on: 07/08/2002
Release date: 09/01/2002
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-1-60239-128-4
Open Ebook - 256 pages - 978-1-4299-2186-2
Paperback - 227 pages - 978-0-571-24585-7
Hardcover - 227 pages - 978-0-571-21770-0
Hardcover - 240 pages - 978-0-571-21771-7
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On the morning of August 7, 1974—having already illegally rigged and walked steel cables between the towers of Notre Dame in Paris and Australia's Sydney Harbor Bridge—French funambulist Petit illegally rigged 200 feet of 7/8" steel cable between the two World Trade Center towers and walked between them repeatedly, lying down at one point and making eight crossings in all. This incredible feat resulted from six years of obsessive planning and problem-solving, meticulously documented in this engrossing, truly exhilarating account of how he pulled it off. Petit has penned four previous books in French regaling his various exploits, and here establishes an elegantly energetic and quirkily poetic English as he tells of secretly (and benignly) casing the World Trade Center, assembling his team of helpers for the enormously complicated (and improvised) rigging job, getting the heavy cable and rigging tools to the roof, running the wire across in the dead of night (via an arrow shot between the towers!), and tightening the cable: "Even in the midst of the hardest rigging job or most demanding clandestine adventure, I never fail to pause and admire the moment when tension brings my cable to what I consider its most seductive shape. Then I pause and smile back." The way in which the walk itself stopped traffic and galvanized the city is captured in Petit's descriptions and the 140 b&w photos (including Petit's notebook sketches), a most fitting remembrance of the World Trade Center as a piece of New York social architecture. The spirit behind Petit's form of trespass—undertaken with enormous care, to the point of wrapping the rigging in carpet so it would not damage the towers—acts directly against the violation of the city's structures and the murder of its people. (Sept.)

Forecast:While a plethora of World Trade Center books are due this fall (see future roundups), it is doubtful that any will come close to the intimacy and immediacy of this one. Look for big sales and media attention.

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