NPR Staff

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Novelist Joe Hill has a pronouncement to make: "The world is really divided into two kinds of people. People who adore plague novels and wimps."

Classical music fans know the names Mendelssohn and Schumann. Chances are, Felix and Robert leap to mind — but Felix's sister Fanny was also a composer, and so was Robert Schumann's wife Clara. Those are just two composers featured in Anna Beer's new book, Sounds and Sweet Airs: The Forgotten Women of Classical Music.

A new oil painting has just arrived in what may be the world's most clandestine art gallery — the fine arts collection at the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency.

This commissioned work isn't your typical still life; the tableau is a busy clutter of gear — photos, blueprints, weapons and ammunition.

In the late 1940s, in the small, coal-mining township of Bethel, Pa., Marie Sayenga was raising two children — one named Bill — on a secretary's salary.

"Mama was widowed when I was 4 years old," retired teacher Bill Sayenga says to his daughter Ellen Riek during a recent visit to StoryCorps. "She had no education beyond high school. Raised my sister and me on almost no money. And bought a house so that her kids would have a proper place to grow up."

Corinne Bailey Rae has traveled great distances in her music. The UK singer's self-titled debut album came out 10 years ago; all sunshiny pop, it was a huge hit. Her second album, The Sea took an emotional turn, coming shortly after her husband of seven years died suddenly. Rae was 29.

At White House state dinners, it's customary for a president to nod to the strengths and contributions of guest countries. And when hosting Nordic nations on Friday, President Obama paid tribute to a particular Finnish export.

In two of The New Yorker's most famous articles, writer Joseph Mitchell tried to answer one question: Who was Joe Gould?

Mitchell first introduced Gould in 1942: He was a quirky, possibly mentally ill Harvard dropout who wandered the streets of Greenwich Village and Harlem filling pages and pages of dime-store notebooks with everything people said to him. Gould said he was writing the longest book ever; he called it The Oral History of Our Time.

Before there was Star Wars' C-3PO and the robot who famously warned of "Danger, Will Robinson!" on TV's Lost in Space, there was Eric — one of the world's first real robots. He was built in 1928, less than a decade after the word "robot" was first used.

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