Virginia Woolf's "Street Haunting, A London Adventure" provides a unique and detailed perspective of city life in London. As our narrator walks along the cobblestone streets, we are given glimpses into flower shops and book stores, bursting with light, and energy. Our narrator actively interacts very little in the story, but rather, interacts with everything, letting even the smallest moments of her evening walk wash over her. Woolf uses her extensive imagery to describe a snapshot of a city in the precise moment that our narrator is observing it. It is a winter evening in London and the flowers "burning" in the window, the woman trying on shoes, the blind men on the street, are all part the moment that Woolf attempts to capture. While the delicate and effusive language of the essay may lead one to believe that description is overly rosey in it's depiction, the portrayal of the street and it's people offers, instead, a realisticand truthful portrayel of the city and it's "haunters."
While reading this, I was reminded of a Truman Capote essay that I had read before called, quite simply, "Brooklyn." Like Woolf, Capote conducts a thorough observance of the streets of Brooklyn and the small things that make city life on this street and in this city what it is. I don't know if Woolf had any influence on Capote or if both writers simply shared the desire to put into the writing the mish- mash of people and things that they experienced everyday, but many of their descriptions are similar in how they examine the city they live in. In particular, both writers write prolifically on the general appearances, sounds, and smells of their neighborhoods. Woolf and Capote also masterly resist getting overly sentimental about their cities while maintaining a certain admiration for those with whom they share these busy streets. Woolf describes her fellow "haunters" as "men and women, who, for all their poverty and shabbiness, wear a certain look of unreality, an air of triumph." Like Woolf, Capote also appreciates the "shabby" but undeniable pride of his fellow Brooklynites, describing his aging neighbor with ironic awe as she stands "shrouded in a sleazy kimono , her sunset colored hair falling Viking-fashion" (Capote 19). Both Woolf and Capote create reverent tributes to their respective cities without shielding the reader from reality but, rather, embracing the tattered people and things that populate them.
Like Woolf, Capote uses his essay to freeze a moment in a city before it changes. Both authors write about city life in an honest way, depicting for the reader the regularity of beauty if one takes a moment to notice it, especially in the people who bustle by you.