So, if I'm reading Penelope Fitzgerald's spectacular short novel The Bookshop correctly (and I think that I am), what she's saying is:
1. People are real shits; and
2. If you're not a real shit, you don't have a chance in hell of beating them.
Or, as a corollary to number 2, you might in fact "beat" the shits in that you will win a moral victory, but 2 1/2: You will never know you have won the moral victory, or 2 3/4: it will not help you to win the moral victory.
If she is, in fact, saying all these things, then there's really only one thing left for me to say: I think me and this Penelope Fitzgerald are going to get along.
It's a small story, about a very ordinary but sometimes enthralling lady named Florence Green, and her desire and plan to open a bookstore in her small British village of Hardborough. The year is 1959, and the class structure is clearly still in place (as it is today, too, just not as obviously). But what could possibly go wrong in a nice little local village where everyone knows each other? Um, yeah...
I'm off to find more books by this woman. This book was bleak as hell but meeting her heroine Florence Green, oddly enough, gave me faith in (some) human nature. I'll take it. Please go read this book, and come back to tell me what you think. I'm dying to talk it over with someone.