Real World Echoes of Cuckoo’s Calling: Celebrity Suicide Sad, Familiar, and True

This week, I was teaching my students Edwin Arlington Robinson’s classic 1897 poem, “Richard Cory.” I asked, as I always do, if the story seemed familiar. Of course, my students know plenty of stories of people like Richard Cory, beautiful, affluent, charming people whononetheless end their own lives, either directly, as he does, or with drugs, alcohol, or other destructive choices. Some of those are stories of famous people, and others concern less-well-known people who nonetheless seemed to have everything any of us could want. It may seem surprising that someone who has it all should throw it all away, but it happens with terrifying frequency.

This week also saw headlines that were both sad and hauntingly familiar to Strike readers as beautiful pageant winner and television host Chelsie Kryst died under circumstances painfully reminiscent of those surrounding the death of Lula Landry. While Lula is merely a literary construction, Ms. Kryst was a very real person, with friends and family who are devastated by her death. The world appears shocked, as it always does, when someone beautiful and famous dies this way. Ms. Kryst was the 2019 Miss USA, advancing from North Carolina, and went on to compete in the Miss Universe pageant. She was a college athlete, an attorney, and a correspondent for Extra! She was clearly loved and admired. Yet, like so many people, she wrestled with her own challenges behind a beautiful image.

Real stories like this one are the reason so many people within Cuckoo’s Calling believe that Lula, a fictional person, is a victim of mental health issues rather than of foul play. For although everyone seems surprised by headlines like these, at some level, we expect such tragedies; we know that the pressures of fame and the expectations of public attention lead to the kinds of pressures that can becomeoverwhelming. Lula’s death seems like just another of these familiar tragedies, concealing the crime behind our societal expectations.

While the death of Ms. Kryst is a clear reminder of why certain literary strategies work, it is also, much more importantly, a reminder of the importance of good mental health, a concern for Rowling, who has contributed so generously to helping those facing mental health challenges. As posted yesterday,  she continues to give back by trying to do good in the world and to share what she has been given. We can hope her efforts continue to assist many before it is too late. Literary characters are not real people, but, perhaps, they can remind us to keep reaching out and supporting the very real people who need help, even if they appear to have it all.

National Suicide Hotline.  1-800-273-8255

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