Among the academic detritus cluttering my desktop is a book I wrote while employed at Nashotah House. Not being a native Midwesterner and finding myself where severe thunderstorms are a blasé fact of life for much of the year, I was captivated by and terrified of the weather. At the same time, daily recitation of the Psalms was a major part of our required, twice daily worship. With the thunder louder than I could ever imagine it outside, we’d calmly read the Psalms, at our stately pace, confident that he who rides upon the clouds could protect us, his humble servants. After many years of recitatio continua I noticed the plenitudinous mentions of the weather in the Psalms. After a painstaking five years of reading and rereading the entire Psalter, I had translated every verse with a weather reference and had written commentary on them.
Publishers showed no interest, this despite the enormous success of Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm, and Erik Larson’s Isaac’s Storm (both of which I eagerly read) and the recent release of Twister. One publisher deigned to make comments as to the great problems of my thesis, so I sat down to revise this behemoth of a book. The very day I was called into the Dean’s office and fired was the last time I looked at the material. I had been revising the book that very morning. The one sad aspect of this entire episode is that every colleague to whom I mentioned the book was excited to read it when it came out. There was a real interest, but no publisher willing to take on the project, this side of vanity publishing.
Some days I think I may go back to that dead beast of a project and try to resurrect it. My academic publishing has slowed to a tortoisene pace without full-time institution support or interest (independent scholars are not worth investing in, I have learned), especially under the weight of teaching nearly a dozen classes a year. Nevertheless, the idea seems sound to me. I keep a weather-eye on the academic horizon and I have yet to spot a book like mine anywhere within the publication catalogues. Considering the importance of storm gods in the ancient world, perhaps we’ve simply moved beyond this interest, tucked away in our interior settings. Nevertheless, when a rare thunderstorm comes to New Jersey, I still remember the majesty of the weather and a forgotten book on the Psalms.