Cheating The Impossible: Ideas and Recipes from a Rebellious High-Wire Artist (Kindle Single) Kindle Edition
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This long essay is much harder to characterize. It's a mixture of practicality and poetry (at times): "I am rigging a high-wire walk and must send a ladder to the top of a multistoried scaffold. ... What's the best knot to use? It is a ladder problem. What is a ladder? The engineer-poet in me answers: 'a festival of negative spaces framed by rungs and posts.' Thus, as if by magic, a generous loop in the rope invites itself to enter the rectangular space between top and second rungs.... No matter how windy it is ... it will automatically find its center of gravity thanks to this elegant self-stabilizing knot!"
He adds, after a drawing of this elegant knot and a ladder, a bit of literary criticism: "A little halt, as promised: You may wish to read Longitude by Dava Sobel." (Incidentally, this essay works beautifully on the iPhone app for Kindle; at this writing, it isn't working on the Kindle Cloud -- I urge you to try to read it on one of the color Kindle devices -- the photographs are excellent and the colors reproduce very well.)
Petit suggests musical accompaniment; for the chapter called "Physical challenge" he suggests "the sounds of 'Memorial' which Michael Nyman composed for Peter Greenaway's film Cook-Thief-Wife And Her Lover." It would have been a tour de force if Petit had released a sound track for this essay, one that could be played on my computer as I read, but imagination worked very well in this chapter, at least. He uses, of all things, a very challenging card trick that he mastered at eight, with cards bigger than his hand. And adds: "The repetitive duplication ... will instruct flesh and bones ... but will not elevate the physical prowess into something echoing the human soul, into something inspiring, into art." (Petit recommends Federico Garcia Lorca's In Search of Duende as a complement to the chapter.)
There is no way, honestly, to review this essay, to capture the essence, the joy, the wonder, really, that resides in its pages. It is a wonderful adventure, guided by a person who has experienced some of the greatest adventures of our age.
Robert C. Ross
Addendum: A friend recommended a gripping fictional description of a high wire act, as gripping as Petit's own, the first chapter of Steven Galloway's Ascension: A Novel. Galloway also wrote The Cellist of Sarajevo. R.
If you are looking for a book solely about that feat, this is not it.
At first read, the words were so deep they were hard to understand, but I stuck with it and was rewarded with great thoughts.
If you are willing Phillipe Petit's book will open a part of your mind and heart you didn't know was there.
My favorite part was his description of his first step onto the wire from the World Trade Center .
It's easy to read and understand, and, of course, highly motivating. In short, just remember the following terms to be successful in life: