Is there anything better than Moby Dick? It is just so fucking good, every single page a visceral pleasure. I was going to punt and say that without Melville there'd have been no Conrad, but I am feeling particularly declamatory this morning, and I'll come right out with it. There have only been three truly inventive writers in the novel form, and they are Cervantes, Sterne, and Melville. As Hillel said about something else altogether, the rest is just commentary.