With the increasing number of books on contemporary fiction, there is a need for a work that examines whom we value, and why. These questions lie at the heart of this book which, by focusing on four novelists, literary and popular, interrogates the canon over the last fifty years. The argument unfolds to demonstrate that academic trends increasingly control canonicity, as do the demands of genre, the increasing commercialisation of literature, and the power of the literary prize. Turner argues that literary excellence, demonstrated by style and imaginative power, is often missing in many works that have become modern classics and makes a case for the value of the 'universal' in literature. Written in a jargon-free style, with reference to many supporting writers, the book raises a number of significant cultural questions about the arts, fashions and literary reputations, of interest to readers in contemporary literary studies.