To Reach the Clouds: My High Wire Walk Between the Twin Towers

To Reach the Clouds: My High Wire Walk Between the Twin Towers

5.0 2
by Philippe Petit
     
 


An artist of the air re-creates his six-year plot to pull off an act of incomparable beauty and imagination

One late-summer day, a feat of unimaginable audacity was perpetrated on the twin towers of the World Trade Center. The year was 1974. A hundred thousand people gathered on the ground to watch in awe as twenty-four-year-old high wire artistSee more details below

Overview


An artist of the air re-creates his six-year plot to pull off an act of incomparable beauty and imagination

One late-summer day, a feat of unimaginable audacity was perpetrated on the twin towers of the World Trade Center. The year was 1974. A hundred thousand people gathered on the ground to watch in awe as twenty-four-year-old high wire artist Philippe Petit made eight crossings between the all-but-completed towers, a quarter mile above the earth, over the course of nearly an hour.

Petit's achievement made headlines around the world. Yet few who saw or heard about it realized that it was the fulfillment of a dream he had nurtured for six years, rekindling it each time it was in danger of expiring. His accomplices were a motley crew of foreigners and Americans, who under Petit's direction had conpired, connived, labored, argued, rehearsed, and improvised to make possible an act of unsurpassed aerial artistry.

In this visually and verbally stunning book, Petit tells for the first time the dramatic story of this history-making walk, from conception and clandestine planning to the performance and its aftermath. The account draws on Petit's journals, which capture everything from his budgets to his strategies for rigging a high wire in the dead of night between two of the most secure towers in the world. It is animated by photographs taken by two of Petit's collaborators, and by his own wonderfully evocative sketches and unquenchable humor.



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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
On August 7, 1974, French funambulist Petit, then 24, performed an astonishing high-wire act on a cable that he and his accomplices had surreptitiously rigged between the north and south towers of the World Trade Center. In short, predominantly one-page chapters, Petit details the entire adventure, from its inception in a Parisian dentist's office in 1968 through his hour-long aerial feat of eight trips across the cable, 1350 feet above the ground, while more than 100,000 New Yorkers watched. Wonderfully documented are the assemblage of his confederates, the innumerable covert trips to the towers, the exhaustive planning, and, especially, the seemingly endless frustrations, problems, fights, and difficulties throughout the six-year period that led up to the "artistic crime of the century." Part Houdini, part Evil Kneivel, Petit is certainly fascinating; if his prose sags a little under the weight of too many exclamatory and interrogative sentences and hyperbolic tropes, he is to be forgiven; after all, he spent an hour suspended between heaven and earth. The 140 drawings and photographs are by Petit and his comrades and tend to be a bit amateurish, but they do give readers an idea of just how audacious a feat it was. Essential. Barry X. Miller, Austin P.L., TX Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A heady, rushing account of the outrageous high-wire act performed by Petit, on August 7, 1974, between the World Trade Center towers. Even Petit understood it to be a "mad project," which was why, when he took to the cable he and his confederates had strung between the Twin Towers, he held much of the city in thrall for an hour as he coursed back and forth 110 stories high. In short chapters, written as though the words were on fire, Petit recounts all the planning-he had already done major illegal aerial walks between the towers of Notre Dame Cathedral and on the world's longest steel arch bridge, in Australia-and all the incredible logistical problems: the danger of the towers swaying in the wind and snapping the cable, the subterfuges necessary to gain access to the still uncompleted buildings for planning strategy. There are snafus and betrayals, wonderful strokes of luck, and some inside help. Most of all, there is Petit: arrogant, haughty, rebellious, and romantic, the grandiose funambulist ("Impossible, yes, so let's get to work"), right up until the moment of "tuning my wire for the celestial symphony to follow." For all his bluster and hyperbole-"The gods of the towers. Breathing, swaying. . . . Let me go. Let me pass. Let me arrive. Let me reach you"-it is impossible not to like Petit, epitome of the adventurer who makes his days count, cheating the Reaper, thumbing his nose at authority, inspiring and giving delight. Like George Mallory, he is asked, Why? "When I see three oranges I juggle; when I see two towers, I walk!" Johnny Carson calls, and Petit turns him down; Sweet 'n' Low wants his endorsement, and he stares in disbelief. He keeps the act sacrosanct, a wild deed anda work of art, and he scredits those who helped make it happen. As breath-stopping as the event itself. (140 drawings and photographs)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781429921862
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
09/04/2002
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
344,362
File size:
4 MB

Read an Excerpt


To Reach The Clouds
BEFORERebel poet?By four years old, disdain for my fellow man starts to show: I climb onto everything to distance myself. At age six, I announce, "When I grow up, I want to be a theatrical director!" Then I proceed to learn magic on my own.During the next ten years, I study drawing, painting, sculpting, fencing, printing, carpentry, theater, and horseback riding, all with prestigious masters; I embrace focus, tenacity, respect for the tool, and passion.The reaction of my parents to my unruly individuality is to legally emancipate me on my seventeenth birthday. Autodidact, I become a juggler and a tightrope walker.By the time I turn eighteen, I've been expelled from five schools for practicing the art of the pickpocket on my teachers and the art of card manipulation under my desk. I refuse to take the basic exam to prove I can read, write, and count, and thereby jeopardize my chances of landing a job picking up garbage or operating a cash register. Instead, I leave home and become a wandering troubadour, a street-juggler without a permit who is arrested constantly ... all over the world.No one wishes to hire me, practitioner of an absurd arrogance; for a while I make sure it stays that way. It becomes essential to write, play chess, learn Russian and bullfighting, discover architecture and engineering, invent hiding places, erect tree houses, train at lock-picking--to indulge my gourmandise for knowledge while honing my perfectionism. 
This course of events conduces me to imagine rigging a wire insecret somewhere and performing on such an imposed stage, out of reach, in total disregard of the powers that be. 
The adventure of the World Trade Center begins with the first appearance of such thoughts, in a dentist's waiting room in Paris. I am barely eighteen years old.© Philippe Petit, 2002

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