The group of rich men sat around the table staring at the book in front of them, their hats in their hands and brows furrowed. This was the first thing that had been set before the Committee for Literary Control had been presented that had presented them with an absolute conundrum.
On its face, the book was innocuous enough; a plain leather cover bearing only the authors name - Miles Stansbury - on the bottom half of the cover. The first twenty pages were filled with mediocre but not patently offensively bad poetry, and while the Committee could, of course, censure for that it was not something that was generally done. No, the thing that had them confused and wringing their hands was what came afterwards.
"But what value does it have," said Mr. Bregnan, who had headed the committee for the last six months, "when it contains nonsense?"
The group of rich men nodded their assent, muttering politely to themselves and to each other. Following the twenty pages of poetry, the book quickly diverged from its initial aims.
The passage they were currently reading, all heads bowed to the table, was a recipe for blueberry pancakes. None of the rich men had summoned forth their servants to attempt the recipe, their work being considered far too serious for such frivolity. The next fifty pages were similar recipes, all for pancakes. This would have been no issue for the group of rich men had not the book started as a book of poems. The metre was all wrong on the recipes for them to be considered to have even the least bit of poetical merit.
The group of rich men had been careful to measure, in case it should have some hidden poetical qualities that were not immediately obvious, but alas the recipes did not even rhyme.
Mr. Khross spoke next, as was his due as the Comittee's treasurer, with the dissenting view from that of the Head. He did so half heartedly.
"But, I am sure we can all agree that nothing here is, on the head, guilty of obscenity," he said.
The gentlemen all nodded. It was true. There was not a single word approaching profanity; not a single described act of any nature, let alone anything approaching blasphemy. There was no romance, let alone anything that might be considered to be in the least bit lewd. Not a single word in the book could be deemed offensive to even the most faint-hearted of readers. Just poems of questionable quality, and then a surprisingly wide array of pancake recipes, with nothing to link the two.
"Have we considered," said Mr. Bregnan, "That the book itself is a joke? Does it hold any merit in that regard?" After all, absurdity was a recognized if frowned upon literary tradition. However this was dispelled when one of the members of the committee spoke up that they knew the author by reputation and by all accounts he was a properly serious man of good reputation and breeding. He would not write such a book as a joke.
"Then what in the devil is the message," exclaimed Mr. Bregnan, pulling on his wise white beard. He was quite perplexed. "Is there something missing from this edition? Is it perhaps only the first volume of many? Or was there a printing error?"
None of the committee could answer this question with any degree of confidence - It would be considered quite gauche to ask the author of the work, whose opinion they didn't particularly care about, anything in regards the nature of his work. Nor could they put the reputation of the printer at risk - He was well known and well respected and usually considered beyond reproach.
The hour grew late, and the men retired for the night with no answers yet as what to do, if anything, with the very strange book. When they returned the next day, the debate continued, with the esteemed members of the committee agonizing over individual passages for hidden meaning or subtext. Sadly, they could find none. The pancake recipes appeared to be just that, and the poems appeared to be unfortunate.
Over the next months, they continued to study the book. They formed camps and wrote articles debating the merits and flaws. One brave soul even set his servants to cooking the recipes for pancakes and attempting them. Like the poems, they were mostly bland. Mr. Khross and Mr. Bregnan fought a duel over whether to finally contact Miles Stansbury to explain himself. Mr. Khross, the champion of this course of action, was sadly killed by the bullet. As they could not conduct any business not related to the book until they had determined whether they would or would not censure, they did not elect another Treasurer to take his place. It was a useless point any ways, as it was found that Mr. Stansbury had in fact passed away shortly after the book had been written, and the book itself was published only because it was a firm demand in his will. He had no next of kin who could be summoned to inquire as to the status (and purpose) of the book.
No books were censured over the next fifteen years, since the order of business concerning Miles Stansbury's book had never been properly put to rest.