I have been re-reading the Wallace stories. The opening of “Little Expressionless Animals” is slightly confusing, though including laugh-out-loud one-liners. So. Here is a little guide to the characters and their relations to each other:

Janet Goddard is the director of Jeopardy. She is currently married to Goddard, who is not present.

Muffy deMott is the Public Relations Coordinator.

Dee Goddard is the ex-wife of Goddard and mother to Faye. It becomes clear that Dee Goddard is the red-haired woman in the movie theater whose hair is fondled by a stranger throughout the three-hour event as she is sitting next to her young daughter, Faye Goddard. Dee appears to be a producer of the show working for Merv Griffin Enterprioses. Of course Merv Griffin [a real person] is the iconic former game show and afternoon talk show host who acquired great wealth as well as becoming owner and executive producer of a number of TV shows.

Faye Goddard is in charge of research and question production for the show. She is in a lesbian relationship with Julie Smith, the seemingly unbeatable Jeopardy champion.

Julie Smith appears to be the abandoned little girl in the opening paragraph of the story. This is indicated early by the emphasis on the “very white skin” (3) of the abandoned little girl and the “Julie is very white” (4) description.

You know Alex Trebek, but might not be as familiar with Pat Sajak (“Wheel of Fortune,” which is still on the air) and Bert Convey(“Super Password,” “Win, Lose., or Draw,” Fiddler on the Roof) died in 1991, but was a successful actor (both theater and film) and then game show host who won a number of Emmys.

I hope that this information helps you to gain some balanced while reading “Litttle Expresionless Animals.”

Here are the writing prompts for the two stories. You will write a short essay response to each question. I don’t think that it would be productive this time to ask you pointed questions about specific moments in each story. Each will be worth 25 points.

1) Explain the multiple implications of the phrase “Little Expressionless Animals” in the story of that title by discussing specific moments in the story that help you to understand the thematic implications of the title. How does the address to the idea of little expressionless animals [and insects] provide a gloss on Julie and Faye’s relationship?

2) Explain the multiple implications of the title “My Appearance” in the story of that title by discussing specific moments in the story. Of course, the title literally refers to Edilyn’s appearance on the David Letterman Show. How else does the idea of “appearance” function in the story? How does the way that one appears to oneself and to others function in the story? How is this concept central to Edilyn’s relationship with her husband Rudy, especially at the end of the story.

Please reply to this e-mail just to let me know that you have received and read it.