I can't be arsed writing some lengthy tribute to To Kill a Mockingbird, although it certainly would deserve it, but you can google it and get every man and his book reading dog honouring the work faster than it takes to read this and certainly for me to write it. But there are things that intrigue me as we hit half century on one of the most influential works of the English language, let alone American literature.
Here's a book that has as often been banned or burned as it and the author has been awarded the highest honours for literature and for battling ignorance and bigotry, and all in the same country throughout its 50 year life. Perhaps no other book, except Catcher in the Rye, has shown up the insane contradictions of a religious and rational nation.
Harper Lee herself has only on few occasions involved herself in that madness (great letter she wrote to a school board on her Wikipedia entry) and in fact she has refrained from much comment at all.
Often the media refer to such people as recluses, which is an utterly shallow reaction toward people who prefer to drink with their own mates than fortune seeking journos and fame touching fans (authors like Cormac McCarthy, Thomas Pynchon or Tim Winton).
Harper Lee is no recluse but she obviously enjoys a private life. Perhaps partly due to bearing witness to what happened to her attention-seeking friend Truman Capote, but I think more because she's simply wiser than many.
Harper Lee only wrote the one novel and indeed it is also her only major work. It is considered semi-autobiographical and may explain that she has always thought of herself as more of a journalist than as a novelist, even though she can happily wear the label of novelist on just the one novel (a testament to the power of Mockingbird).
Perhaps an important reason for her reticence to be interviewed or talk about the book is that she firmly believes the book can and should talk for itself. I don't think she wants the book and herself to be inseparably intertwined in the public consciousness as how both In Cold Blood and Catcher are often perceived.
Certainly I feel that the 84 year old Harper Lee (34 when she wrote Mockingbird) does not want herself to be the subject rather than the ideas she puts forward. Indeed, this may well have contributed to the book's power 50 years on.
And that I spent more time talking about her than the book probably wouldn't impress Harper Lee at all.