I end up with multiple fallbacks for my grey day moods-- consistent re-reads that either inspire serenity or stroke my madness into a fit of purring.
1. I usually start with T.S. Eliot and his Four Quartets, with its brittle yet lyrical meditations on time and mortality. Reading Eliot is an exercise in accepting what I cannot fully comprehend, understanding that no matter how many times I read it it remains new and somewhat enigmatic. A favorite quote: "The whole earth is our hospital/Endowed by the ruined millionaire,/Wherein, if we do well, we shall/Die of the absolute paternal care/That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere."
2. Anything by Dickens, with his glut of words and caricatures for characters. There is something soothing about getting lost in the minutae, and even his tragedies retain an element of the ridiculous.
3. Paul Park and his trilogy beginning with A Princess of Roumania. To tell you the truth, I am still unsure as to why I like this one. It is neither well-written nor terribly written, lying in a sort of book purgatory. He writes with all the detachment of a sociopath, the emotions portrayed mechanical at best and the characters devoid of much that would inspire sympathy. And yet... and yet... I could not stop until I had reached the anti-climactic end which really was not an end at all, and I was satisfied.
4. The Bone Doll's Twin by Lynn Flewelling is deliciously grotesque and is a welcome departure from the usual sea of Tolkien derivatives. Unfortunately, I have yet to get my grubby paws on the following books in the series and have no idea as to whether the others live up to the promise of the first.
5. Last but not least (and I could mention a slew of other books but sleep is closing in), Tanith Lee's anti-fairytale The Black Unicorn, first in a trilogy. The heroine may be as awkward and fractured as an adolescent, but the girl's got steel and the book is as whimsical as it is dark. Lee will make you snicker on one page and she will cut you to the heart on another but there is a gritty sense of reality, a dry tone of pragmatism seeping through the cracks of an extraordinarily original world.
On another note, new books I am currently lusting after:
1. Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld.
2. Frostbite, by David Wellington.
3. A Partisan's Daughter, by Louis de Bernieres. (Fans of Marguerite Duras, check this out.)
4. Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger
5. The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood.