With quick bursts of description and a quirky, poetic English, Philip Petit remembers how his dream of one man walking between the two World Trade Center towers became a reality transfixing millions. Bringing an adult’s wisdom and authority to this recall of youthful romance and grand folly, Andrew Heyl reads Petit’s memoir of the six years he pursued and planned and nurtured his vision. And when he lived it, early one morning in August of 1974, his most immediate reward for transfixing thousands on the ground and millions around the work by performing a quarter mile off the ground on 250 feet of one-inch braided steel cable was to be arrested and hauled off to see a psychiatrist.
More than a quarter-century before September 11, 2001, the World Trade Center was immortalized by an act of unprecedented daring and beauty. In August 1974, a young Frenchman named Philippe Petit boldly - and illegally - fixed a rope between the tops of the still-young Twin Towers, a quarter mile off the ground. At daybreak, thousands of spectators gathered to watch in awe and adulation as he traversed the rope a full eight times in the course of an hour. In Man on Wire, Petit recounts the six years he spent preparing for this achievement. It is a fitting tribute to those lost-but-not-forgotten symbols of human aspiration - the Twin Towers.
The book is written with excessive tension and in a frenetic tempo. Does this express the feeling of the high-wire artist himself, or is it to increase the suspense of the book? The high-wire artist himself wrote this book, 27 years, after the feat. And what was that feat? In August 1974 the twenty-four year old Frenchman, Philippe Petit, fixed a tight-rope between the Twin Towers in NYC then under construction. This was 1353 feet above ground, 110 floors up. Just to think of this makes me feel ill. Of course none of this was done with permission. Philippe traversed the rope not once, not twice, but eight times - at dawn, with thousands of spectators watching from below. He wanted the publicity.
I would recommend the book to those of you who like a book filled with tension. Exactly how the high-wire feat was executed is followed step by step. Planning is disorganized, so the telling is disorganized too. Arguments and betrayals. You learn about the six years from the initial inspiration to its execution, the execution itself, how the authorities behaved afterwards and what Philippe Petite came to do in the following years. How he came to write this book, his thoughts on the 9/11 and the rebuilding of the Towers - all of this is covered. The latter chapters, after the spectacle itself, are more calmly presented. This leads me to believe that the author chose to make the earlier writing exciting, and I personally did not like the frenzy of this. The narrator of the audiobook, Andrew Heyl, further increases the tension and frenzy through his narration.
Having completed the book, I know the full story, but I don't feel I understand the man. Asked why he did it, his reply was approximately, "I see three oranges and I have to juggle them; I see two towers and I must walk!"
There were terms used that were never explained, although you do end up understanding how it was done. I wanted to know what happened to Barry, who worked on the 82nd floor and helped them. Why isn't this told?
The book does tell you about the event, but how it was written was more to excite than to inform. What you are looking for should determine whether you want to read the book or not. I appreciated Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin, on this very same feat, much, much more.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Very interesting and very good. You should also watch the movie if you enjoyed the book. Just goes to show you could do anything if you put your mind to it.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Compelling story; the writing was choloppy and hard to follow. The narraotor's voice is good. However, he didn't look up the correct pronunciation of the French words which was a big detraction from the experience.