As an alternative protagonist from typical fare, Jessica lives to mock consumerist ideals of Woman from her jaded, depressed, and alcoholic cloud of knowing.
Thirty years ago, when she was first here with her husband and two young children, they’d come in the summer—June—so that Otto could teach a study abroad course, and the city then was a lush racket of color. The pale blue and pink and gold ornamental bric-a-brac of Belle Époque architecture. Stoops cluttered with terra cotta pots spilling herbs. Window box gardens bursting geraniums the startling florescent red of she-didn’t-know- what. It was all exactly as she’d envisioned Paris since she’d first wanted to go as a sixteen-year-old sitting in a high school French class.
The clinic represented a whole lot of things I feel deeply conflicted about—the medicalization of childbirth, the immense economic privilege of mostly-white women in accessing fertility services when so many women in this country can’t even access good prenatal care—and I felt uncomfortable even being assessed.
On the High Wire was written in 1972, when Petit was all of 23, and Paul Auster’s new translation of the book has just been published by New Directions. On the High Wire (2019) is a little (ahem, petit) thing, all of 115 pages including notes, with a trim size—4.5” x 7.3”—to match. In the hand it feels like a guidebook and reads like a dream diary. The book is both of those things.
Hope misses the city, and I miss Hope. So every other weekend I buy a bottle of wine and drive up the valley to see her and Little Girl in their new suburban home, where they live with Hope’s boyfriend, a pilot.