I’ve been inviting friends to my book launch and have gotten all sorts of reasons why they (“sadly”) won’t be able to attend: away on holiday, work commitments, family obligations, etc. But the most interesting reason for not coming to my book launch is one a very old friend gave me: “That’s the night I’m having dinner with Jordan Peterson.”

“What?” I asked incredulously, “Are you going to dump me and my big night for dinner with Jordan Peterson?”

There was a long pause before my friend said, “Ahh... let me get back to you on that.”

This conflict...

I’ve been inviting friends to my book launch and have gotten all sorts of reasons why they (“sadly”) won’t be able to attend: away on holiday, work commitments, family obligations, etc. But the most interesting reason for not coming to my book launch is one a very old friend gave me: “That’s the night I’m having dinner with Jordan Peterson.”

“What?” I asked incredulously, “Are you going to dump me and my big night for dinner with Jordan Peterson?”

There was a long pause before my friend said, “Ahh… let me get back to you on that.”

This conflict of interests — me versus Peterson — poses an interesting moral and philosophical question for my friend and for all of us: what are the duties and obligations of friendship? Should my buddy of over forty years come to my book launch or be free to follow his desires and have dinner with his new famous buddy Jordan Peterson?

Let’s face it, My Dinner with Jordan Peterson makes for a better dinner-party story than My Buddy’s Book Launch, and probably a better evening too. Few social events are as depressing as going to a friend’s book launch — especially if you’re the friend with an unpublished book. For decades I’ve been schlepping across London through rain and snow to “celebrate” the books of friends. But the publication of a friend’s book is never a cause for “celebration,” at least for me. It’s a cause for regret, remorse, envy, jealousy, self-loathing and self-pity.

You can have more fun at a funeral than at your average book launch. You stand around a bookstore with a glass of mediocre wine in hand, making small talk, listening to a series of long and tedious thank-you speeches with a rictus grin on your face.

Then you have to join the queue to buy a copy of your friend’s book and they sign it with a perfunctory, “Thanks!” Then comes the challenging bit where you have to say to your published friend, “I’m so happy for you!” — and make it sound sincere. This is not easy to do for young writers. Fortunately, I’ve had years of practice and I sound totally convincing.

But don’t worry about sounding insincere. They’re not listening to you anyway, as their attention has been hijacked by someone more important. And so you exit the book launch and stumble into the drizzle of the night and head for home, clutching your new book, and weep yourself to sleep.

Or, like my friend, you can have a free delicious dinner with Jordan Peterson and a small collection of famous intellectuals, academics, pundits and sexy PhD students. Yeah, it’s a tough choice.

It’s odd how Peterson has suddenly popped up on my social radar. The man doesn’t even live in London! Recently, I invited a woman to meet for drinks but she declined, saying that was the night she was having “drinks with Jordan Peterson” and could we do it another time?

Then, a male friend sends a text asking if I’ve been invited to the Jordan Peterson lecture. I reply: no, I bloody well haven’t! (I suspect he knew this and was just taunting me and my FOMO.) Naturally, this raises the question: why haven’t I been invited to have drinks or dinner with Jordan Peterson?

Though I admire much of his work, I’ve never really wanted to have dinner or drinks with Professor Peterson — at least not until now everyone I know is. He doesn’t strike me as a man with whom you could have an evening full of laughs and juicy gossip. And I already know what he thinks about the evils of cultural Marxism and every other topic, so what’s the point? Simple: I can say I had dinner with Jordan Peterson.

That’s what in the days of old we used to call name-dropping. It was considered bad form to be a name-dropper, but now people drop names all the time and no one minds. Still, you have to be careful whose name you drop. You can boast that you had dinner with Jordan Peterson — but say you had dinner with Bono and it looks really bad.

Ok, so I don’t have a Peterson date, but I have a book out. This time last year I was miserable because I couldn’t get my book published: I was told that I was too old, too white, too uncommercial, too this and too that. I got rejected by every major publisher in the UK. “Don’t worry,” friends kept saying, “the same thing happened to J.K. Rowling.”

So am I happy now my book is coming out? No. I have flop anxiety all the time — my party will be a flop and my book will be a flop. And I worry that my flop will be a flop — that is, a mediocre flop. If you’re going to bomb you got to bomb big.

But I have got one bit of good news. My friend rang back and told me he was dumping dinner with Peterson to come to my book launch. Part of me was touched and part of me thought: maybe I could go in his place?

This article was originally published in The Spectator’s November 2022 World edition.