I read my first snippets of Michel Houellebecq’s writing on a ferry between Bellingham, Wash., and Juneau, Alaska. It was two decades ago, and I was with my family. I sat on the deck of the boat, under an awning, as the fjords of the Inside Passage slipped past me.

Houellebecq was a new voice, and I was reading an excerpt from Extension du domaine de la lutte (published in English as “Whatever”) in Granta magazine.

He’s got a new novel out. He also recently published this apologia for the current president of the United States. The headline is perhaps deliberately trolling, but there isn’t a single American writer of his stature who would be brave enough, or foolhardy or foolish enough, to write this.

How to cook rice

I think I have finally learned to cook rice. Every few months I find myself cooking rice, but really no more frequently than that. So I’ve never memorized a foolproof rice cooking routine. Now I have it, thanks to a website that came up first in my Google search (delish.com, I think).

It goes like this:

Ratio is 1 part rice 2 parts water.

Rinse the rice.

Put rice in boiling water, and add salt and butter.

Cover and simmer for 18 minutes.

It should be done then. Don’t worry if there is excess water, or if I need to cook another minute or two.