January 27, 2009 2:03 PM

The private John Updike

A conspiracy of near-zero temperatures, sluggish airports and an inadvertent swerve past Salem's Lydia Pinkham Memorial has made you more than an hour late, but the angular form unfolding from a seat near the rear of K.C.'s Restaurant & Pub is not in the least bit dreadful. Your anemic apology is whisked aside with a handshake and a light quip about how you have "fought your way over the frozen tundra in a malfunctioning dog sled to get here." Then John Updike slides back into the wretched, patched vinyl booth and orders soup and a tuna sandwich. "So you see, I'm a cheap date."

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