It's been fifty years since Harper Lee published her seminal novel, To Kill a Mockingbird and I watched an excellent documentary about the author, the book and its influence on BBC4 the other week.
Do I admit to knowing the book only through the film with that powerful performance by Gregory Peck? (Interesting - or maybe thank goodness - there hasn't been a re-make). I used to see a lot of films - I am more selective and less tolerant these days - yet it is scenes from certain ones, such as To Kill a Mockingbird - which still have the force to flicker into my brain as if I had viewed them only yesterday.
Though, according to the documentary, Harper Lee had set out to be a writer and was, by all accounts, a good and a focused one, To Kill a Mockingbird was the only book she ever wrote. After its publication and the storm that produced, she stopped writing (at least for a public audience). "I've said all I have to say, why say more?" was apparently her explanation.
This is not a sentiment I can quite get my head round. Not only do I feel I need to keep repeating myself - is anybody listening anyway? - but I also feel I have more and more to say the more I write. And what about the process of writing? The pure joy and satisfaction of taking and distilling an experience, a feeling, an idea, into words and sharing that? I can't imagine that ever becoming stale for me.
Still, I have never, up to now, experienced the sudden and phenomenal - perhaps over-whelming - critical success Harper Lee did. Perhaps, in some ways, I've been lucky as, at least, I've been left with my writing.