A night at the Barnsley house on Monroe Street guaranteed that the guest would be entertained, enlightened, and well fed. For the couple of decades following his joining the English faculty at WSU in 1966, Alan and Edwina Barnsley hosted the liveliest salon in Pullman. Both were erudite and funny, full of wit and counsel. Dina died just last year, and Alan in 1986.
But Alan lives on as Gabriel Fielding, the pen name under which he wrote many marvelous novels. Three of those novels—Pretty Doll Houses, The Birthday King, and In the Time of Greenbloom—were released in digital form this August by Bloomsbury Publishing. Of his work, Dorothy Parker once wrote, “It is a matter for grave doubt that Mr. Fielding could write anything from a postcard to a lexicon without perception and grace and brilliance.”
Shortly after the Barnsleys came to Pullman, they met close neighbors Flo and Robert Feasley, and Robert, a member of the fine arts faculty, painted Alan’s portrait. The Barnsley family recently donated the portrait to the Bundy Reading Room, which is part of the English department.
Robert Feasley died last spring. Flo Feasley recounts first meeting Alan, aka Gabriel Fielding. She had recently read The Birthday King, which describes Hitler’s Germany from the perspective of a wealthy Catholic and Jewish industrialist family, and was very impressed. And then one night, she was at a party and standing there was the author!
She introduced herself and told him that after reading his novel, she wasn’t able to sleep for three weeks.
“That’s exactly what he liked to hear,” she says, laughing.