Agatha Christie was NOT dyslexic – who on earth benefits from this fabrication? No-one dyslexic!

A (rumour) can circle the earth before Truth can get its boots on – variations of that have been attributed to Winston Churchill and Mark Twain, among others, and Terry Pratchett quoted it several times in a Discworld book so I’m sure some think Pratchett was the source. How very appropriate that a quote regarding fabrications is probably wrongly attributed most of the time.

I saw a blog written by a dyslexic saying he was in good company and quoting a long list of famous dyslexics including, to my surprise, Agatha Christie. Lots of general comments, none protesting her inclusion in the list. I was even more surprised when I looked it up, the internet agreed: oh yes she was, she had to dictate all her books, even the very first Poirot.

Oh no she wasn’t. Oh no she didn’t. Not according to her, anyway, and you’d think she’d know. Yes as her books started selling she had secretaries but not because she had dysgraphia (inability to tell a coherent story) (seriously???) or dyslexia. She may not have liked typing but she wrote a fair bit in longhand even when she had a dictaphone or secretary, while she was plotting.

Put it this way, in her autobiography she talked about the writing of one of her best books, Absent In The Spring. It’s a Mary Westmacott book, not a whodunit, and it is absolutely seamless, a book that flows without a check. She said the idea had been quietly in the back of her head for a long time and when the time came she wrote it in one sitting, 70-something hours without stopping: slept for 24 hours, read it back, and barely had to change a single word. That is quite possibly as far from dyslexia as you can get, and something that turns other writers green. It is something we all dream of. Check the autobiography.

She’s been added to a very specific list and I don’t think that’s fair. A young relative of mine had partial word-blindness, not full-blown dyslexia, and that was still a battle that was hard fought. Overcoming dyslexia, or working around it, is such a struggle and takes such perseverance that it builds formidable character. No wonder there are positive role models and success stories! Winning against a disadvantage, especially fairly early on, shapes your life.

It helps with every challenge we ever face if we know others have fought and won, that it can be done. But – how valid is the list? What possible benefit is there in adding a commercially successful writer who taught herself to read at the age of 5? Where is the role model, the success story? She apparently had a poem published when she was 11. What are we to say to our dyslexic 11 year-old who, flushed with success, has achieved a short slightly lopsided barely-rhyming poem – that’s nice, pet, but we’re not Agatha Christie yet, are we? No-one’s going to publish that, are they? Go back and try again.

Whatever we struggle with in life is tough enough without setting fake goals. Just saying.


8 thoughts on “Agatha Christie was NOT dyslexic – who on earth benefits from this fabrication? No-one dyslexic!

  1. I agree! Gosh, can you imagine less supportive parents saying, ‘so what if you have dyslexia: Agatha Christie coped with it, you learn to cope too!’ Some people can be more or less reliably diagnosed after the fact: a writer as prolific as Christie, not so much!

    (Walt Disney is another one that people claim is dyslexic, to the point that the family have put out a statement refuting it: they’d announce it and be supportive if he was, but they don’t want people to accept a revisionist version of Walt…)

  2. I have Dysgraphia and Dyslexia, been working on it since I was 7 (in my 30s now), lot’s of classes and learning methods to deal with it. I also in the last few months decided to see what new information there was about my “disability”. I would encourage you too look more into it as well but I’ll give you the skinny. Dyslexia is a spectrum disorder, and individuals with it can have different levels of severity as well as having it effect different parts of learning. She grew up in a time where dyslexia was vastly misunderstood as it even as I grew up in the late 90’s to the 00’s. While she claimed she had difficulty in spelling as well as arithmetic both of which were examples of the phonological processing issues of dyslexia. These and several other things are why she was believed to be Dyslexic. If you’d like some resources for yourself and your Dyslexic family member, you can look at ‘made by dyslexia’ and ‘the Dyslexic advantage’ as a good starting point that is always looking g to provide people with information on dyslexia

    • Hi Kevin

      Thanks for your message, I thought it unlikely that a prolific author could have a condition which makes writing a challenge, especially when the subject only arose after her death and is, I thought when I wrote the blog, unfounded speculation which benefited nobody. If she is inspirational because of this belief, great. She has been in other ways too.

  3. Dysgraphia is NOT an “inability to tell a coherent story”; if it were, you might be somewhat justified in your incredulity. Dysgraphia can affect various aspects of the writing process, which means it may just affect fine motor skills, making writing by hand arduous and so slow and painstaking as to not be automatic- which often means you lose track of what you want to say. Typing can also be slower, so dictating is ideal. I am not saying Christie had it, but I do think it’s important for kids to see people with differences like theirs who have still succeeded at something there were passionate about.

    • Thanks for the input and info about dysgraphia, which is something I’d not heard of before I saw it attributed to her. My bad, I did check two sources at the time and both mentioned coherence as well as the difficulty of writing or typing at speed – one was Wiki, the good news is that entries there can be challenged and corrected. My main point with the blog was about unfairly setting false expectations with quoting fake examples but where unusual conditions are mentioned it is always good to know more, thank you for taking the time, it is appreciated.

  4. Eeeek, if AC is dyslexic I’m double jointed and very rich.Thanks for this Elizabeth; dreadful how the truth gets juggled this way and that and such BS is put out there …

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