The Literary Reference: "books by Joyce."
The context: The phrase appears in one of the later stanzas, as the narrator talks about what I take is a dinner date with a girl he likes. The girl shows him a dress we're told she "nicked from Mary's Market," which the singer says, the girl thought would make her look like Mary because the girl thought the singer would like it (got all that?) and the singer says:
I like you better I like you loads
I like you unaffected
Take your eighties’ records your books by Joyce
And you can pack ‘em up for the summer
The (Presumed) Significance of the reference: The ownership of books by Joyce is one of a wealth of biographical details we're given about the girl with the nicked dress. She also reads the singer's fortune, cooks him dinner he didn't eat, makes shadow shapes on the wall and builds a still life, and casually shoplifts. The references to 80s records and books by Joyce, though, makes her not just a poor person or a weirdo, but a specific type of hipster/free spirit girl -- one who is clearly trying to be someone or something she's not, and the singer is on to it, because he tells her later in the song that she only had one true moment in their night together. But Nicked Dress isn't a total loss -- the singer says he likes her unaffected, and is seeming to tell her she doesn't need to try so hard.
The books by Joyce is a good pick to make the point of the sort of intellectual striving that appears to be going on in Nicked Dress' life: whether she is actually trying to be smart and interesting or just wants to appear to be so, reading something by James Joyce is (as I well know) one way to get accepted into the Club Of People Who Are Smart About Annoying Stuff. On the other hand, as I also well know, it's probably not worth it to try that entry route, and, as Nicked Dress learns, not necessary in some instances to be in the Club.
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