By Thomas Pynchon

315 ratings - 3.53* vote

"Entropy" is extremely significant for students of Pynchon in that it provides us with an early peak into the development of the author's thought in terms of ideas which carry as themes in later works. Many concepts which play a key role throughout the bulk of Pynchon's fiction can be found here in various stages of infancy. For example, the notion of entropy itself is ree "Entropy" is extremely significant for students of Pynchon in that it provides us with an early peak

... more

Book details

Paperback, 16 pages
Edition Language

Community Reviews

Aiden Heavilin

The second time I read this I enjoyed it more, but it is, as Thomas Pynchon admits in his introduction to Slow Learner an amateurish effort reveling in its own cleverness. Nevertheless, Thomas Pynchon reveling in his own cleverness is still worth reading, and there were some worthwhile passages here and there.

The ultimate message of the story is that although entropy will take all in the end, we can do some things to restore order to our little pocket of the universe. We can fix the refrigerator, and rescue the drowning girl in the bathtub. However its foolishness to think we can isolate ourselves like Callisto and Aubade in our own personal climate controlled jungle, impervious to the outside world.

That theme is hammered bluntly into your mind in this story, everything is working on a fairly obvious line of symbolism, and nothing here can be enjoyed except on a metaphorical level.

Right now I'm reading Pynchon's "Against the Day" which is shaping up to be perhaps the best book I've ever read, and its astounding how, even though he has matured so much over the years since he wrote this story, the seeds of what makes his writing so magical are still evident. He's a truly unique author, committed to his own peculiar blend of pop culture and nerd culture (along with plenty of science and drugs along the way.)

Reading Borges really ruins you for enjoying poor short stories though. This wasn't exactly poor so much as underachieving. It's a cute idea, and competently executed, but it puts theme over character and forgets about plot entirely. Its worth reading for the humor and the well-written ending.


what was this


drunk on american black coffee and french bread


A destructive, aphrodisiacal short story. I fell in love with Pynchon right here, as the glass shards rained down, speeding toward collapse. I've shelved V, and kept Gravity's Rainbow in mind.

Glass River

The academic George Levine once wrote an article describing how he had taken three months off from university teaching to read, in hermit-like isolation, Thomas Pynchon’s magnum opus, Gravity’s Rainbow. By which calculus five hundred novels – if reading as conscientious as Prof. Levine’s lay behind them – would require a hundred or so years in the hermit’s cave. Nonsense, of course. Most novels require hours, not months. Pynchon, though, is something else. Even his shortest novel, The Crying of Lot 49, is – to use the favoured euphemism – ‘challenging’ (i.e. like eating brazils without a nutcracker). What the notoriously incommunicative Pynchon is on about in his fiction is the stuff of 1,001 doctoral dissertations and pandemoniac conferences. But it’s generally agreed that somewhere in the engine room of his novels are two energy sources: paranoia and entropy.
Paranoia is a wonderfully creative mental disorder. Everything, for the paranoiac, is narrative. A glance from a stranger indicates the CIA are hot on your trail. In Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway the shell-shocked paranoiac Septimus Smith believes the pigeons in Regent’s Park are talking to him (in Greek). In her paranoid state, Muriel Spark believed that T. S. Eliot was sending her messages in his verse plays. He gravely wrote to reassure her that he wasn’t.
Entropy, energy loss, is something else. When you start, say, a novel it winds down (losing energy) to its final page, like a pre-digital watch. Everything tends inexorably towards terminal equilibrium. Everything, put another way, breaks down. The entropic idea was popularised by Henry Adams and reformulated in a book influential on Thomas Pynchon, Norbert Wiener’s book on cybernetics and society, The Human Use of Human Beings. What can rewind the clock? Paranoia. But paranoia is ultrafictional. Madness. At the beginning of Gravity’s Rainbow, set in London in 1944, the hero is convinced that V2 rockets fall wherever and whenever he has an erection. Makes perfect sense. If you’re paranoid. Pynchon laid out his cards in his early short story ‘Entropy’, first published in the Kenyon Review in 1960, and republished (after he became world famous) in 1984 in a collection called, self-disparagingly, Slow Learner. The story opens with an epigraph from Henry Miller, ‘The Weather will not Change.’ Paradoxically breaking weather – breaking everything (‘disequilibrium’) – will be the theme of the story.
In Manhattan, Meatball Mulligan is having a ‘lease breaking party’ fuelled by a plentiful intake of booze and dope. It is early February, and the weather is breaking. The party is in its fortieth hour and breaking up. Sandor Rojas – Hungarian freedom fighter and refugee virtuoso of Don Juanism, a serial heart-breaker – is one of the more prominent guests. A musical group, the Duke di Angelis Quartet, is also in attendance. The musical among the company discuss such topics as whether the Gerry Mulligan/Chet Baker quartet’s dispensing with the piano is a breakthrough, or just a broken concept. A neighbour, Saul, who has just had an argument with his wife Miriam, breaks in through the window. Their argument, improbably, was about communication systems (another of Pynchon’s hobbyhorses) and the ‘disorganising’ impacts of ‘noise’ (things coming in through windows) on circuits, breaking them down. It’s ‘sort of wet out’, Saul reports.
The party breaks up into chaos. Five sailors, on liberty leave, break in thinking the apartment is a ‘hoorhouse’. A fight ensues. The refrigerator breaks down. Meatball contrives, temporarily, to cool things down. But the party will never return to what it was forty hours earlier – disequilibrium decrees that. Meanwhile, upstairs, a Princetonian graduate called Callisto has created what he fondly hopes is a ‘closed system’ – a hermetically sealed apartment, with his partner Aubade (‘daybreak’). He clutches a dying bird to his chest, in the hope that ‘heat transfer’ will bring it back to life. It dies. Callisto breaks a window, and the inside and outside temperatures equalise at thirty-seven degrees (coincidentally the temperature of human blood in a living organism). The story ends. Or, put another way, having broken up, it winds down.


I had to read this for Uni and I have to say that I am a bit confused. The writing style is very metaphorical - in fact everything in this book is metaphorical - and you really need to think about everything in order to follow the story.
the scientific parts were a bit harder to follow for someone who as no idea of all of it but it doesn't prevent from understanding the story.
Meatball's choice between a) and b) was very thoughtful (compared to Callisto), you can try to fix some small things, it will be better in the long run, than to isolate yourself and wait, even though entropy will come at some point and destroy everything.
Interesting metaphore of the bird as well.
I hope that after studying it in class, I will get to understand more of it because now I am affraid that there are too many things that I missed.
Maybe also a reflection on the names of the characters : meatball (what kind of name is that ??), Aubade is in French - I think- a piece of music that should be played at dawn, and Callisto comes from Greek for "the most beautiful".

In any case, this was a very interesting read and I think the themes evoqued in this shortstory are still quite relevant today

Eric Gilliland

Upstairs/Downstairs. A couple on the top floor ponders existence and how the universe will end. On the bottom floor a chaotic lease breaking party that's part Marx Brothers and part Animal House. Both of these worlds/ecosystems are in crisis, one comical and the other tragic. There's talk of jazz, modernism, Pavlov, information theory, thermodynamics, cosmology, meteorology, botany, relationships, AI, life in 50s DC, and on how to restore order to your nervous system.

Zeke Fairley

This is like the best thing ever it is so good. Classic Pynchon shit. Great short read about the heat death of the universe. Someone almost drowns in the shower because she sat on the drain. Brilliant. Pynchon baby.

Chibyke shade

A very confusing and strange read. I struggled to keep up with the narrative, but it went over my head several times (actually, I had no idea what was going on with the bird and the science talk upstairs).

Andy Hickman

“Entropy” by Thomas Pynchon.Peculiar flow of rotating contexts within the same house party. Obviously, a fascinating author. ***