Jane Borden, a Southern Belle turned hipster, is about to become the new “It” girl of Brooklyn literature. Her first book, “I Totally Meant To Do That,” inspired by a fight she picked with an old etiquette guide, is a raucous memoir of a 11 years spent straddling the Mason-Dixon line. Like any newcomer, the North Carolina debutante who now lives in Gowanus looks at Brooklyn with fresh eyes (though once they saw a dominatrix at work in DUMBO). On the eve of her March 17 reading at Greenlight, she checked in with our own newcomer, Laura Gottesdiener, and chatted about being a stray in a new city.
Laura Gottesdiener: Hey Jane, being fresh off the boat myself, I liked that you compared yourself to the lost bird P.D. Eastman’s children’s book “Are You My Mother?” But, really — were you that love-starved?
Jane Borden: I think it was more that I was barking up the wrong tree. I was running to every strange bar and new experience, knocking on the door saying, “Hey, can I come hang out here for a while?”
LG: At least that must have led to good finds — what’s your favorite spot?
JB: I love Dram Shop on Ninth Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues. It has the best burger in the city; it leaves me speechless.
LG: Speaking of eating, sounds like your table manners need some work. If you had to write a manners book for Brooklynites, what is some advice you’d give aspiring Northern debutantes?
JB: The number one manners rule in Brooklyn is that God takes care of those who take care of themselves. After that, I’d say: If it’s not broken, don’t throw it away, just put it on the sidewalk; don’t talk about your Ivy League education; never acknowledge that Scooby, the lovable put bull who lives at Danny’s Rim and Tire Shop [on Fourth Avenue between 11th and 12th streets in Park Slope], always has a boner.
LG: What would happen if you did acknowledge it?
JB: I would probably be the first white lady ever to do so, which, I imagine, would engender an immediate cross-cultural (and cross-species) friendship. Maybe I should try — once again we’ve learned that it’s wise to toss out etiquette in New York.
LG: So is it when you give up your manners that you become a “true New Yorker”?
JB: I’ve come to believe that if you are standing on a square of pavement in this city, you are a New Yorker. Just by showing up you make the cut.
LG: And I’m sure living in eight different apartments doesn’t hurt. Besides the hassle of moving, what do you think native Brooklynites can learn from your years here?
JB: When I talk about my family to people here, they’re shocked that we have 40 people at Thanksgiving. But later, after they’ve had too much to drink, they tell me that sounds nice. I think that, here, where so many of us have all just come here from somewhere else, we have to work a little harder at making community.
Jane Borden joins other comic writers at Greenlight Bookstore [686 Fulton St. between S. Portland Avenue and S. Elliott Place in Fort Greene, (718) 246-0200], March 17, 7:30 pm.