Critics angry after spotting ‘gross misrepresentation’ of reviews on Jordan Peterson book cover

Writers have pointed out the creative use of their words on the paperback cover of YouTube professor’s book

Nicole Vassell
Thursday 17 August 2023 07:38 BST
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Two prominent literary critics have voiced their surprise at how their reviews were quoted on the cover of Jordan Peterson’s book, Beyond Order.

The divisive Canadian professor and YouTube creator initially released his second book in 2021, with a paperback version published the following year.

Peterson is critical about topics such as political correctness and feminism, and has been lambasted by many for his dismissal of concepts of structural oppression, such as the existence of patriarchy.

This week, media figures who reviewed Beyond Order (2021) have drawn attention to parts of their articles being used to suggest positive views about the book – despite their full critiques being more nuanced, or outright negative.

On Tuesday (15 August), James Marriott, who wrote a review for The Times in 2021, shared a picture of the back cover of the book, including his words that described it as “a philosophy of the meaning of life”.

The short quote, however, fails to include the fact that Marriott called Peterson’s philosophy “bonkers” on several occasions in the piece.

Although he later deleted the tweet, Marriott stated that he’d mostly thought the creative use of his words was “amusing”.

Elsewhere, Johanna Thomas-Corr shared her disappointment at the inclusion of her New Statesman review, calling it a “gross misrepresentation”.

On the cover, Thomas-Corr’s words read: “Genuinely enlightening and often poignant… Here is a father figure who takes his audience seriously. And here is a grander narrative about truth, being, order and chaos that stretches back to the dawn of human consciousness.”

In the full review, Thomas-Corr caveats any praise with overall criticism of the book for its presentation of Peterson’s controversial views.

“It is, however, a narrative filtered through Peterson’s prejudices,” Thomas-Corr writes in the piece. “He repeatedly identifies masculinity with order and femininity with chaos and makes it clear which side he feels we should favour.”

Back cover of ‘Beyond Order’ by Jordan Peterson (Twitter / Johanna Thomas-Corr)

Responding to the book cover, Thomas-Corr wrote on X (formerly Twitter): “I don’t have it in me to write some casually witty thing about how horrifying this is. The quote on the back of Jordan Peterson’s paperback is a gross misrepresentation of my 2,000+ word New Statesman review of his book. It should be removed.”

From the Telegraph’s review, the book cover has taken the phrase “wisdom combined with good advice”. The full piece – which gave the book four out of five stars – has the word “hokey” ahead of “wisdom”, an adjective that drastically changes the meaning when omitted from the cover.

“Here is my review of Beyond Order by Jordan Peterson which they have snatched half a sentence from and missed out the word hokey,” reviewer Suzanne Moore wrote on X, adding: “Dumb blurbing by dumb publisher.”

In response to the quotes on the book, several onlookers have expressed their concern with the clipped reviews.

“We’re now in the post-truth era for book reviews: 2 reviewers say their quotes on the back of Jordan Peterson’s book totally misrepresent their reviews, which were actually negative,” BBC journalist Luxmy Gopal wrote on X.

Another critic on social media added: “Funny if it were not so sad. So all blurbs are suspect but then we know this don’t we and reviewers will have to write stuff that can’t be edited in this way. Tricky.”

Other people have compared the cover to the viral poster of Tom Hardy’s 2015 film Legend, and its creative repurposing of a two-star Guardian review.

The Independent has reached out to representatives of Jordan Peterson and Penguin for comment.

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