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Man on Wire Paperback – November 17, 2008

4.6 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From 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.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.

From 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, Inc. --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing; First Edition edition (November 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 160239332X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1602393325
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 6.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #828,091 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Joseph J. Hanssen on April 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a beautiful book that proves dreams do come true if you really want something bad enough and are willing to work hard enough no matter what the risk to reach that goal. It was Paris, 1968, when young 18-year-old street performer Philippe Petit saw a sketch of the proposed World Trade Center towers, and he was so awestruck that he drew a line between the two rooftops of the towers, and decided then and there that his ultimate goal was to one day walk on a high wire between the two towers. Over the next six years he perfected his craft. He did public performances atop Paris' Notre Dame in June, 1971, and he walked between the northern pylons of the world's largest steel arch bridge in Sydney harbor, as well as other high wire acts. One day in late summer 1974, Petit's dream came true. As thousands watched he made eights crossings between the towers, 110 stories above the ground, in less than an hour.
I think the most fascinating aspect about this story, was the lengths that Petit and his co-conspirators went to plan, train, and carry out this unauthorized feat. It's all here in vivid detail. And even if you didn't bother to read the text in this book, the photographs are amazing and breathtaking by themselves. This is a captivating memoir that captures the excitement, triumph, and joy of Petit's stunning achievement. Now that the towers are, sadly, gone, it's all the more important as a part of the towers history. I more than enjoyed this memoir, I was fascinated by it. It is certainly a positive and enlightening ray of hope for those who dream of the impossible!

Joe Hanssen
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Format: Hardcover
Firstly, i am so surprised that this book does not figure in the "Hype list" of any Media outlet. Luckily, i came across a short review of this book in a magazine and was intrigued to know that Sep11'2001 was not the first time that the towers of World trade centre captivated the attention of millions around. It was way back in 1974, when a French tightrope walker did the unprecedented daredevilry act of walking between the peak of two towers on a cable which he had rigged illegaly the previous night. He walked for 45 minutes from one tower to another, making the sky his theatre. Why did he do it?? Was it for fame? Money? Lunacy?? Philipe Petit's book explains the whole adventure in simple prose accompanied by sketches and photographs which were done during the unfolding of his "project". It is an amazing adventure. Reading it is like reliving it- Petit achieves that magic of retelling a story and giving his readers a feeling of experiencing it vicariously.
When Petit was asked by a TV crew why he did it - his answer was, when i saw three oranged, i juggle. When i see two towers, i walk ! ;-)
Petit was not alone in his effort to breakthrough the security of the towers and implement his plan. Aiding him where his friends who believed in his ability and went to great lenghts against all odds in planning and pulling off the feat.
This is a great book, in the true spirit of adventure and the endless capacity of a human to set and achieve his goals. One more imporant thing to note, Petit doesn't sound arrogant or egoistical. At the peak moment of his success, he is modest and humble, bowing to the gods in every element which helped him in the feat - the wind, the sea, the people below, his dear friends, the friends who stood by and the friends who gave up- he sees gods in all of them and thanks them for their role.
I am not given to effusive praise and there is nothing like a perfect ten. But, this is a fine read.
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Format: Hardcover
I remember seeing the WTC towers being built, still partly framed in steel, as a child in the late 1960's. I also remember a snippet of this event in the news in the 70s. But, it was (I think) Ken Burns' American Stories on TV that reminded me of it and really gave it perspective that blew my mind as to how unbelievable an event it was. To me, it wason a scale of things like landing on the moon. With that still fresh in my head, I looked into the event and found this book and was unable to put it down from the first page until I finished it.

This book is inspiring. Petit is a bit crazy, but to pull off a hack of this magnitude, you have to be. Genius is touched with madness. To say the feat is inspiring is a great understatement. The logistics, planning, obstacles overcome, and just plain luck that all aligned in the end were really incomprehensible - more so after reading this book!

I thoroughly enjoyed every page. Sometimes, I get overwhelmed with things I need to do and obstacles I face, and I look at that timeless picture of Petit between the towers on the cover of this book and I am inspired. If he could do THAT, certainly I can find a way to overcome whatever is in my way today. THis book is fantastic.
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Format: Hardcover
Phillipe's book is phenomenal. What he did was absolutely stunning, both physically and artisticly. There is a beauty to his story that manages to intertwine the human form with our techonological and architectural triumphs. He reminds us that it was a mortal being that inspired the towers; that we are still capable of surpassing our greatest achievements.
Those of you who criticize his character -- and I hardly think his character relevant to his art -- must have missed his performance on THE TONIGHT SHOW. He was by far the most charming and down-to-earth (forgive me) guest. Phillipe crossed broadway, despite the rain, and then sat with Letterman for an interview. His demeanor was sweet and he expressed his love for New York. By comparison, the hollywood princess next to him appeared ridiculous.
I highly recommend this book.
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