Lev Grossman says it very well indeed:
Why do we seek out these hard places [Westeros, Panem, ec.] for our fantasy vacations? Because on some level, we recognize and claim those disasters as our own. We seek out hard places precisely because our lives are hard. When you read genre fiction, you leave behind the problems of reality — but only to re-encounter those problems in transfigured form, in an unfamiliar guise, one that helps you understand them more completely, and feel them more deeply. Genre fiction isn’t just generic pap. You don’t read it to escape your problems, you read it to find a new way to come to terms with them...
One of the great things about the literary world is that it’s an expanding pie; it’s not either/or, it’s both/and. Literature is not bunk — as Raymond Chandler put it —and genre fiction is not a vice — as Edmund Wilson had it. They’re all just books, and good books are treasures beyond price, and vive la difference.
Literature is only a zero-sum game in the minds of those who think of it that way, who think of it as a matter of turf to protect. rossman also takes a moment to dismantle the idea that what we read should be some kind of badge of pride or status symbol, and to register distrust with the idea that one belongs over the other in any kind of hierarchy. Y'know, I distinctly remember saying something like that earlier ...
See also: The Myth of the Vulgar Cage.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind