Fortunately, Unfortunately

by | Oct 2, 2006 | Literature

Keen-eared readers of this column will have noted by now my fondness for the words that form today’s title.  Fortunately, Unfortunately was the name of one of my very favorite books when I was little.  Unfortunately, I haven’t read it since I was about six.  Unfortunately, it is now out of print.

It’s a very exciting story.  After only a few pages, our protagonist has to bail out of an airplane.  I quote from memory:

Fortunately, he has a parachute.  Unfortunately, the parachute doesn’t open.  Fortunately, there is a haystack on the ground.  Unfortunately, there is a pitchfork in the haystack  Fortunately, he misses the pitchfork.  Unfortunately, he misses the haystack.  Fortunately, he falls in the ocean.  Unfortunately, there are sharks in the ocean.

It goes on like that for pages and pages.  The illustrations were marvelous, especially the one that showed the tigers stuck in the bottlenecks of the long and sinuous cave that our hero, fortunately, found just in the nick of time.

Another favorite was Swimmy, which was about a little red fish.  Unfortunately, all of the other little fish are black.  Fortunately, Swimmy cleverly finds a way to save his community from the depredations of the three scary Big Fish; and not only is he clever, but being a different color than his compatriots is key to the plan’s success.  Sort of like Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.  Everyone lives happily ever after.

I read all the Curious George books I could lay my grubby hands on.  George never meant to cause all that trouble.  He was just so darned curious.  And let’s not forget that nobody asked him if he wanted to leave the jungle.  Kind of a dubious character, the Man in the Yellow Hat.

Go, Dog, Go.  Again, wonderful illustrations.  Wish I had illustrations like that in my book.  My book doesn’t have any illustrations at all.

Unfortunately, I’m not an illustrator.  Fortunately, you can paint pictures with words.

Fortunately, there was Dr. Suess, who gave me my first lessons in poetry.  A woman I used to know met him once at a party, shortly before he died.  He told her that often, at parties, he was introduced to bigshots who lost all interest in him and walked away once he told them that he wrote children’s books for a living.  I used to get the exact same reaction when I was a tree trimmer, but children’s books?  Where would we be without Green Eggs and Ham?  Where would we be without children’s books?