The Worst Book Ever is ‘Dildo Cay’

Gabe Habash -- September 15th, 2011

We know what you’re thinking: there are a lot of books out there, how could you possibly name one book the worst of all? And besides, we already picked The Worst Book Ever back in July, the masterpiece known as How to Avoid Huge Ships. But grant us a do-over on that declaration, because, boy, do we have a doozy for you today.

Dildo Cay is a book written by Nelson Hayes in 1940 and published by Houghton Mifflin and it’s also called Dildo Cay. Just wanted to stress that part. The cover of the book is pictured above, and its centerpiece, a far-off vertical shaft on the cay, does ridiculously little to dispel its unfortunate title.

The title is a reference to a cay (or “key”) covered with Dildo cactus, and yes, Dildo cactus are real and yes, there is a real place called Dildo Cay. Here’s a map. In the top left corner, if you squint, you can see it. It’s not that big.

And all that would be bad enough, but, as it turns out, Dildo Cay is actually a really bad book.

From the inside flap of the book:

Ainsworths do not marry for love. They choose their women to carry on the line–thoroughbreds who can endure the loneliness and the eternal wind of the Ainsworth island–Dildo Cay. This speck in the Atlantic lies six hundred miles southeast of Great Bahama. Here the Ainsworths have lived for eleven generations–the one white family among two hundred blacks.

Young Adrian Ainsworth has followed the family tradition in selecting his wife, Mary. Then Carol arrives with her father, hired to revive the salt industry on which the livelihood of the Ainsworths and the blacks depends. Carol is a glittering and sophisticated creature caught in a strange situation. Adrian’s deep, growing desire for Carol and the tension between her arrogant father and the blacks mount to an electric climax. Without sentimentality, but with a powerful honesty, the author paints a consuming passion against a romantic and exotic background.

Let’s defer now to Jonathan P. Eburne, Professor in the Humanities and Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and English at Penn State University–one of the few intrepid souls to have faced the trial of Dildo Cay‘s pages and lived to tell the tale. Do yourself a favor and read his pseudo-review of the book in American Book Review‘s survey of really bad books (it’s on page 3).

An excerpt:

“Yet Dildo Cay is bad in ways that surpass its title. The product less of an unsteady hand than of a resoundingly tin ear, the novel’s prose is so categorically graceless as to supersede camp and plunge straight into ontological confusion.”

Eburne also deserves a pat on the back for highlighting this particular passage from the book:

‘Father, I want to talk with you!’
Adrian had been watching his father walk the dike unsteadily, and suddenly he had seen himself at the age of sixty walking the dike unsteadily, and on top of his restlessness it was too much for him.
‘How strong do you think that pickle is?’ his father asked, ignoring the tone of Adrian’s voice.

If you don’t think we’ve fully entered the Twilight Zone yet, just wait. Eburne points out that one of Dildo Cay‘s two customer reviews on Amazon DOESN’T ACTUALLY BELIEVE IT EXISTS:

I’m sorry to report that this book does not actually exist. The fake cover seen above was generated in Photoshop and submitted as part of a viral advertising campaign for Dild-O-Kay adult novelties, based out of Van Nuys, California.

What’s next? A bogus listing for “Goodnight Mooninite” to shill the Cartoon Network?

It is unfortunate that some people seem to think that Amazon is some sort of amusement park, like a literary Astroland, here for nothing more than their moronic brand of hedonism.

To top it all off, in 1941, Paramount made a movie called Bahama Passage based on Dildo Cay, sweeping Hayes’s title under the rug in all instances of publicity except for this one:

You too can have a Kirsten Pipe like Sterling Hayden in Dildo Cay! Here Sterling is called “Stirling”, which may or may not be because he wanted to hide his identity in order to completely disassociate himself from Dildo Cay‘s stink.

Like all great books, Dildo Cay poses more questions than it answers. Is Dildo Cay a deep, elaborate joke? Is Nelson Hayes a genius or a dunderhead? Why, with a choice of approximately 13 million tiny islands located in the Caribbean, did Hayes have to pick the island named after an artificial phallus?

If you’re really curious (and you know you are), you can read Nelson Hayes’s papers, which contain a wealth of insider insight on his greatest literary achievement.

But, sadly, the world may never have the answers to the questions put forth in Dildo Cay. These are the important questions, the questions that needed to be asked. Questions like: How strong do you think that pickle is?

How strong, indeed.

9 thoughts on “The Worst Book Ever is ‘Dildo Cay’

  1. Cait

    Terrible books are still being written today. Have you ever heard of “Twilight”? Not only was it written by a bored housewife, but you can TELL it was written by a bored housewife with no backround in literature or English. I read a lot of garbage, but Twilight is absolutly the worst peice of crap I have ever come across. My 12 year old loved it, but she also loves “Dear Dumb Diary”, “Captain Underpants”, “Diary of a Whimpy Kid” and “The Babysitters Club” she is not exactly a connoisseur of fine writing.

  2. June

    I beg to differ. The worst book ever is called “Vampire’s Waltz” by Thomas Staab. After reading (which was more like wading through a mile of mud), I planned to pick it up again with a red pen in hand but just couldn’t bring myself to that much self torture. Its one redeeming quality? Some of the most creative examples of homophone abuse I’ve ever seen.

  3. Michael Ward

    Not even close to the worst book ever, and I haven’t even read it. It may qualify as the worst book Huff-Muff published in 1940, but even that is doubtful. Never underestimate the inability of writers to write, and publishers to publish.

  4. Erin

    I kind of love how they say that the Ainsworths are the only white family on the island. Since that kind of makes it clear they aren’t marrying the blacks, are they importing white wives, or is this a 1940s V.C. Andrews novel with a horrible title?

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