Scott Simon

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The coronavirus pandemic has created a lot of unscheduled time for people who are sheltering in place. Some are using these unscheduled hours to spoil their pets.

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Lots of writers have said, in lots of ways, that an unhappy childhood made them writers.

Sopan Deb had a childhood in suburban New Jersey that doesn't sound unhappy — more like he was often unhappy with his parents: Bishakha, his mother, and his father, Shyamal. And his parents were almost always unhappy with each other. They had an arranged marriage, but Deb calls them mismatched souls.

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Essential workers are risking their health every day during the coronavirus pandemic to make certain that the rest of us have what we need - medical attention, food, safety and trash removal.

Our world has problems.

But have you heard about the planets of the Interdependency? The collapse of the Flow is at hand — that interstellar pathway of commerce between those inhabited orbs governed by the Interdependency.

Emperox Grayland II has to fight off a coup while her inamorato — or however it's said in the Interdependency — eminent physicist Lord Marce Claremont, tries to figure out how to halt the collapse of a whole system of planets and save the worlds. Note the "s."

Julia Alvarez has written what she calls her first novel as "an elder."

"It took a while to sort of process this stage of life that I'm in," she says. "And you know, what are the stories that I can tell now, from the hindsight and the insights that I've gained that is different. And you have to, you know, learn that."

The author of beloved and bestselling novels for adults and children, including How the García Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of the Butterflies, has brought out her first novel for adults in a decade and a half.

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There's a new meme for these troubling times derived from a classic painting, a self-portrait of Vincent van Gogh.

LORI DAY: With a surgical mask drooping off of just one ear.

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We've been reaching out to people from all walks of life to hear how this pandemic affects their lives. Let's hear now from Mike Kamber.

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Exercise can be more important than ever during times of stress, and these sure are times of stress. Enter a team of athletic trainers from the University of Texas, Austin.

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Let's ask Samantha Irby to introduce herself, with a passage from her new book, Wow, No Thank You: "I occasionally write jokes on the Internet for free because I'm the last person on Earth who still has a blog," she reads.

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Throughout today's program, we hear from Americans about how the coronavirus outbreak is affecting their lives and their thoughts.

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It started with a few Post-it notes slid under the doors of homes.

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The coronavirus pandemic has caused offices around the country to close. Many adults are working from home and feeling just a little antsy - their children, too.

ROWAN CLIFFE: I had to stay home, and it's weird staying home.

The losses of the coronavirus pandemic became personal for many Americans this week. More people lost jobs. More people had to worry about their health. And more people died. These names are just a few among so many who gave something to our lives.

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Emily St. John Mandel's last novel was set in a world devastated by a worldwide flu epidemic. Station Eleven has sold more than a million and a half copies — though Mandel recommends you not read it right this minute.

Instead, try her latest: The Glass Hotel takes us through tunnels of carelessness, corruption, moral compromise, and a global financial crisis to pose the question: How many chances do we get in life?

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Of course, the highest rate of fatalities from the coronavirus has been among older people, especially those with underlying medical conditions. Many younger people are begging older parents to stay home. Many are not listening.

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Snap, crackle, pop - delectable golden bits afloat in fresh, cold milk. They go together, like BJ Leiderman, who does our theme music. And new cereals pour forth, if you please, every year to tickle contemporary taste buds.

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Until a couple of years ago, Nadia Reid had never been far away from New Zealand.

NADIA REID: I live in a place called Dunedin, which is sort of at the lower end. I was born in Auckland, which is the top of the North Island.

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As the world struggles to try to contain the coronavirus, scientists are racing to develop one of medicine's most powerful weapons, a vaccine. NPR health correspondent Rob Stein joins us. Rob, thanks so much for being with us.

"In the real world, villains too often succeed and heroes, too often die," says writer James McBride — and that's one of the great things about being novelist. "In novels you can move matters around ... you get to show the best side of people. You get to show redemption, and forgiveness, and you get to show the parts of people that most of us never get to see."

I asked Louise Erdrich to introduce the main character of her new novel, The Night Watchman. His name is Thomas Wazhashk.

She reads:

Years ago, I covered a protest by thousands of people in their underwear.

Civil servants in Calcutta, now called Kolkata, opposed a plan to replace the nylon kurta, that loose, long blouse worn by many Indian government workers, with kurtas made of cotton khadi cloth. Millions of government workers wearing home-spun khadi could help build India's village industries. It seemed such a right thing to do.

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