“Entropy” was the second professional story published by Pynchon, and this comic but grim tale established one of the dominant themes of his entire body of work. The setting is an apartment building in Washington, D.C., on a rainy day early in 1957. In a third-floor apartment, Meatball Mulligan and a strange group of friends and interlopers are in the fortieth hour of a break-the-lease party. Some of Mulligan’s friends are listening to rock music played on a huge speaker bolted to a metal wastebasket; when the music ends they carry on a hip discussion of the jazz music of the time, centering on Gerry Mulligan’s piano-less quartet. The Duke di Angelis quartet, as they call themselves, carry on an experiment, playing music without any instruments and without any sounds, a kind of telepathic nonmusic. Women guests are passed out in various places in the apartment, including the bathroom sink.
As the party continues, more people arrive. One man comes because he and his wife have had a fight about communication theory and she has left him. A group of coeds from Georgetown University arrives to join the party. So does a group of five sailors, who have been told that Mulligan’s apartment is a brothel. They refuse to leave, latch onto the unattached women, and continue the party. At one point a fight almost breaks out between the sailors and the musical group, but Mulligan decides to intervene and calm people down. At the end of the story, the party is...
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