The novels of Gabriel Fielding, rich with psychological and spiritual insight, received acclaim in the 1960s, but have since faded from public consciousness.
Fielding was the pseudonym of Alan Gabriel Barnsley, an English physician turned author. He came to Washington State University in 1966 as an artist-in-residence and ended up teaching creative writing at WSU until his retirement in 1981.
A new biography and literary analysis of Fielding’s novels, Searching Brightness by English author and poet Paul Binding, seeks to bring the memorable characters and stories to readers who may have never read Fielding.
“The book is me paying a debt of decades reading Fielding,” Binding says. “He strongly influenced me as a person and a writer.”
Binding says he was captivated as a young man by Fielding’s emotionally resonant tales of the Blaydon family, particularly John Blaydon, in Brotherly Love, In the Time of Greenbloom, and others. He also notes the influence of Fielding’s award-winning 1963 novel, The Birthday King, which follows a wealthy industrialist Jewish-Catholic family in Nazi Germany.
Binding’s 2016 article about Fielding in the Times Literary Supplement led to a connection with Fielding’s daughter Mary Gabriel Vorenkamp, and then to Binding’s 2023 book published by Shoestring Press.
Fielding, his wife and fellow writer Edwina Barnsley, and their family made their home in Pullman until his death in 1986.
Binding says Fielding’s ability to articulate his character’s complex emotions and spiritual questioning stands among the top tier of modern English writers. “I think he’s a writer who has not been recognized as he should.”
Alan Gabriel Barnsley
(Photo Norman Nelson/WSU Office of University Publications and Printing)