The Short Stories



Although it has been reported that Pynchon wrote ‘several loosely connected stories which form a kind of picaresque novel’ centring on one Meatball Mulligan only one story in this series was ever published — ‘Entropy’.1 He originally planned to make Pig Bodine, a similar figure, central to the story ‘Low-Lands’ but in the event he was given a secondary role not only in that story but also in V. and Gravity’s Rainbow. Pynchon’s published stories then are individual works using radically different techniques which all move away from realism. Even his first story establishes a realistic narrative on to which Pynchon then superimposes — with varying degrees of success — layers of symbolism. In spite of their varied subjects the stories usually bear, however obliquely, on contemporary American themes — on diplomacy, consumerism, espionage and so on.


Short Story Waste Land Walk Away Small Rain German Agent 
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  1. 10.
    Joseph W. Slade, ‘“Entropy” and Other Calamities’, in Pynchon: a Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Edward Mendelson (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1978) p. 69.Google Scholar
  2. 13.
    Allon White, ‘Ironic equivalence: a Reading of Thomas Pynchon’s “Mortality and Mercy in Vienna”’, Critical Quarterly, 23.iii (Autumn 1981) p. 58.Google Scholar
  3. 15.
    White p. 60; Sir J. G. Frazer, The Golden Bough (London: Macmillan, 1924) pp. 460–2. Frazer also mentions (p. 73) the significance of frogs as custodians of rain, which adds a possible extra dimension to the ludicrous frogs chorus which accompanies Levine’s love-making in The Small Rain’.Google Scholar
  4. 21.
    Sigmund Freud, Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis (London: Allen & Unwin, 1940) p. 135.Google Scholar
  5. 25.
    Richard F. Patteson, ‘Architecture and Junk in Pynchon’s Short Fiction’, Illinois Quarterly, vol. 42, pt. 2 (1979) p. 39.Google Scholar
  6. 27.
    John O. Stark, Pynchon’s Fictions: Thomas Pynchon and the Literature of Information (Athens, OH: Ohio University press, 1980) p. 165.Google Scholar
  7. 33.
    Tony Tanner, City of Words: A Study of American Fiction in the Mid-Twentieth Century (London: Jonathan Cape, 1971) p. 153.Google Scholar
  8. 37.
    Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer (London: Calder, 1963) p. 1.Google Scholar
  9. 39.
    This is discussed in Robert Redfield and Peter L. Hays, ‘Fugue as Structure in Pynchon’s “Entropy”’, Pacific Coast Philology, vol. 12 (1977) p. 55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 40.
    Samuel Beckett, Endgame (London: Faber, 1964) p. 13.Google Scholar
  11. 41.
    Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams, Modern Library Edition (New York: Random House, 1931) p. 377.Google Scholar
  12. 47.
    Norbert Wiener, The Human Use of Human Beings (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1950) p. 22. Wiener’s book is virtually a compendium of Pynchon’s fictional themes, including cybernetics which is discussed by Saul and Mulligan.Google Scholar
  13. 48.
    As usual Pynchon’s details about the instruments are precise and are summarized from Stravinsky’s own memoirs; v. Igor Stravinsky, An Autobiography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1962) p. 72.Google Scholar
  14. 49.
    E. W. White, Stravinksy: a Critical Survey (London: John Lehmann, 1947) pp. 81, 79, 78.Google Scholar
  15. 50.
    Peter Bischoff, Thomas Pynchon, “Entropy”’ in P. L. Freese ed., Die Amerikanische Short Story der Gegenwart (Berlin: Schmidt, 1976) p. 228.Google Scholar
  16. 51.
    William M. Plater, The Grim Phoenix: Reconstructing Thomas Pynchon (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978) p. 139.Google Scholar
  17. 53.
    Rudolf Arnheim, Entropy and Art: an Essay on Disorder and Order (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974) pp. 11–12.Google Scholar
  18. 55.
    John Simons, ‘Third Story Man: Biblical Irony in Thomas Pynchon’s “Entropy”’, Studies in Short Fiction, vol. 14 (1977) p. 92.Google Scholar
  19. 58.
    Leonard Feather, The Encyclopedia of Jazz (London: Quartet Books, 1978) pp. 344b–345a.Google Scholar
  20. 59.
    Technical details are from Willi Apel, The Harvard Dictionary of Music (London: Heinemann, 1944) p. 285.Google Scholar
  21. 65.
    David Cowart, Thomas Pynchon: the Art of Allusion (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1980) p. 70.Google Scholar
  22. 66.
    John Buchan, Greenmantle, 6th ed. (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1917) p. 186. The protagonist of Pynchon’s second story, ‘Mortality and Mercy in Vienna’, is compared to a John Buchan hero at one point. Pynchon has acknowledged the influence of Buchan in this context (Slow Learner, p. 18).Google Scholar
  23. 67.
    Alan Sandison, The Wheel of Empire (London: Macmillan, 1967) p. 139.Google Scholar
  24. 68.
    The Marquis of Zetland, Lord Cromer (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1932) p. 128.Google Scholar
  25. 72.
    Karl Baedeker, Egypt: Handbook for Travellers, 4th ed (Leipzig: Baedeker, 1898) pp. 21–2. Most these phrases were cut out during the revisions for V. Pynchon may also have drawn on E. M. Forster’s history and guide to Alexandria. By his own account found a copy of Baedeker in the Cornell Co-op (Slow Learner, p. 17). Internal evidence shows that he used the fourth edition.Google Scholar
  26. 74.
    Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Harmondsworth, Middx: Penguin Books, 1966) p. 57.Google Scholar
  27. 76.
    Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (London and Glasgow: Blackie, 1974) pp. 122–3.Google Scholar
  28. 78.
    Benjamin Muse, The American Negro Revolution (New York: Citadel Press, 1970) p. 260.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David Seed 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of LiverpoolUK

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