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Making £100m from the “Burptastic Snot-sphere”

Some top Walliams titles: like ChatGPT trying to make kids laugh

“It’s David Walliams’s world,” says Tom Gatti in The New Statesman, “we just live in it.”At least that’s how it seems to many British parents, trapped in the “Burptastic Snot-sphere of Mr Wallybottom”. In 2019, the comedian joined a small group of authors – including JK Rowling and Dan Brown – whose writing has earned more than £100m in the UK. I find the whole thing baffling. How can Walliams retain such a grip on children’s imaginations “when his own is so impoverished”? His books are mundanely repetitive and “scatologically formulaic”: Windy Mindy and her lethal “bottom burps”; Terry Tetch, whose “chunder thunder” ends up in his own face. It’s like ChatGPT trying to make kids laugh.

Of course, great children’s authors like Roald Dahl weren’t above making mean jokes. But these were embedded in truly great plots – Hollywood is still cashing in on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – and subversive prose. Walliams’s writing is chronically “lazy”. He uses onomatopoeia in a “deadeningly literal way”: “Peter gulped in fear. Gulp!” In his fictional theme park “Loopyland”, the most spectacular attraction is inventively named the “Loop-the-loop Loopy Coaster”. The sad truth is that publishers today prefer big-name authors like Walliams, because they’re more likely to stand out in the crowded £450m children’s books sector. The real losers are this generation of kids, left only with the butchered works of Dahl and Walliams’s “Boaty McBoatface school of writing”.