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Summer of Shorts Episode 5: Gaitskill and Gym Shorts


This week we’re discussing a Mary Gaitskill short story, “The Girl on the Plane,” and also gym shorts. What more could you need to know?

Okay, fine. The story is from Gaitskill’s 1997 story collection Because They Wanted To. The story doesn’t seem to be available online anywhere, so you’ll have to track down the book, or Best American Short Stories, 1993, in which this story is featured. Also, fair warning: the story does contain some graphic sex, some of which is, at best, semi-consensual. Just putting that out there as a kind of trigger warning. We talk about aggressive masculinity, cultural awareness of sexual politics, and trapping your characters in enclosed spaces.


This week’s shorts, meanwhile, comprise a pretty broad category, which is described in this questionably sourced Wikipedia entry. We talk about “wicking,” whether it’s okay to go shirtless in public during the summer months, and to what degree our middle- and high-school gym class experiences match up with the portrayal of gym class in pop culture.

As always, the episode is available to stream, below, by clicking on the little player thingy. Or you can download the mp3 file. Or visit us in the iTunes store, where you can subscribe (for free) and never miss another episode. We welcome your comments on the episode. You can email us, hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a note here on the episode’s blog post. Though Mike is on vacation for a few more days (this is him talking to you from the past … spooooooky!) so if you have comments directed specifically at him, the response might take a little longer than usual. Or, you and Tom can just gossip about him in his absence.

Thanks for listening!


Download Summer of Shorts #5 (right-click, save-as)


Author: mikeingram25

writer, editor

5 thoughts on “Summer of Shorts Episode 5: Gaitskill and Gym Shorts

  1. RE: Bachelor party blowjobs; the scene is confusing, but I think it is clear he was kidding about everyone getting blown. His fiancee (it says the discussion takes place before they were married) says she can’t imagine all the guys getting blown in front of each other and he concedes, “Yes, that would be embarrassing.”

    Wish you would have talked more about the sexual politics in the story. Reading it again after listening to your podcast, is interesting. I don’t like the guy better than I did the first time I read it, but I like everyone else in the story less. Everyone behaves inappropriately.

    One part that stood out during the re-read was the scene where the narrator meets Patty in the bar and she drunkenly comes on to him. On the first read, I thought it was just a scene about him being an asshole, not wanting his friends to laugh at him and shoving her too hard. On the second read, I found myself looking at Patty’s behavior. She keeps saying she wants to have sex with him even though he’s already told her he isn’t interested, she presses her body against his and then starts groping his crotch. I’m hesitant to call what she does “sexual assault”, I didn’t even think about it during my first read, though had the genders been reversed, it would have been impossible to read the scene as being about anything other violation. I bring this up with trepidation, afraid of being accused of being one of those goofy MRAs.

  2. I actually bought that TASM after hearing the podcast, and the story doesn’t seem to be included. Bummer.

  3. Sorry about the error on the Best American Short Stories — it turns out it was in the 1993 volume (I guess the story was published several years before the collection actually came out). I’ll edit the post!


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