Alexander, Brian 1959- (Brian Robert Alexander)

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Alexander, Brian 1959- (Brian Robert Alexander)

PERSONAL:

Born June 15, 1959.

ADDRESSES:

Home—San Diego, CA.

CAREER:

Writer and journalist. Wired magazine, former contributing editor; Glamour magazine, contributing editor; msnbc.com, online columnist, "Sexploration."

WRITINGS:

Green Cathedrals, Lyons & Burford (New York, NY), 1995.

(Editor, with others) Travelers' Tale[s], Greece: True Stories, Travelers' Tales (San Francisco, CA), 2000.

Rapture: How Biotech Became the New Religion, Basic Books (New York, NY), 2003.

America Unzipped: In Search of Sex and Satisfaction, Harmony Books (New York, NY), 2008.

SIDELIGHTS:

American journalist and author Brian Alexander has written on topics including biotechnology, travel, sex, health, relationships, and the environment. His first book, Green Cathedrals, chronicled a voyage around the world to visit rain forests in Dominica, Panama, Malaysia, New Zealand, Alaska, Guatemala, and the Amazon. As Booklist contributor Brenda Grazis noted, "Alexander's childhood images of the fantasy jungles of Tarzan and Jungle Jim vanish" on his trip as he learns some disconcerting facts and realities about such green cathedrals. Far from being the last outpost of indigenous people battling globalization, the forest could be home to some nasty folks, such as insurgents in Guatemala, or fundamentalists attempting to convert the locals. Nor are the rain forests utopian outback regions: Alexander discovered not only luxury hotels in their midst but also extreme poverty and a vile assortment of illnesses from cholera to dysentery. "In depicting researchers living deep in a soggy, mosquito-infested forest and the impoverished, rugged lives of the locals, the author removes some of the First World romantic notions of a rain forest," wrote Library Journal reviewer Nancy Moeckel. Similarly, Grazis observed, "Even Alexander's trenchant humor does little to lighten impressions of pestilence and hopelessness." And a Publishers Weekly contributor concluded, "Alexander gives us a fresh and disquieting look at these exotic places."

In his 2003 work, Rapture: How Biotech Became the New Religion, Alexander, who was a contributing editor on biotechnology for Wired magazine, presents an overview of those who have pursued the dream of human perfectibility through biological engineering. He looks at groups advocating everything from conquering disease to beating death. At the center of his tale is William Haseltine, former Harvard professor and controversial head of Human Genome Sciences, a biotech company whose firm is exploring possibilities of life extension. In his examination of Haseltine, Alexander demonstrates how closely linked the worlds of science and science fiction are becoming. Cloning, cryogenics, life extension, genetic engineering, stem cells, and new miracle drugs are all part of Alexander's story. The author argues that biotechnology, with its promise of an enhanced future, is the new religion and has even given rise to a body of detractors, whom Alexander refers to as "bio-Luddites."

Writing in Library Journal about Rapture, Dick Maxwell commented, "Alexander writes with humor and an obvious fascination for his subject." A reviewer for Psychology Today called Alexander's book "well-reported and dense with insight." A Publishers Weekly contributor termed Rapture, an "intersection of idealism, capitalism, politics and science on the frontiers of biotechnology that will leave readers eager to see what the future might hold." Booklist critic David Pitt noted that "this exploration of the fringe science of biotechnology is alternately spooky, silly, and scintillating."

In an interview for USNews.com, Alexander remarked on a similar character trait that he found in those whom he terms "bio-utopians" in his book: "The most common thread, the uniting thread, was a deep-seated belief in the power of science and technology to change lives for the better. All bio-utopians, and many who I would not necessarily classify as bio-utopians, like some of the scientists in Rapture, truly believe that answers to some, if not most, human problems can be found through science. They are optimists, mostly."

From reporting on the frontiers of biotechnology, Alexander turned to the subject of sex in his next book. The author of the "Sexploration" column for msnbc.com, Alexander turned a six-part series on sex in America into his 2008 book, America Unzipped: In Search of Sex and Satisfaction. He researched the subject by working at a sex superstore, interviewing people involved in bondage or fetishes, meeting with producers of porn and sex toys, and acting as sidekick to a sex consultant. Writing in Library Journal, Janet Ingraham Dwyer commended Alexander for "his willingness to go where his research leads him (short of participation)" to learn about the extent of unconventional sex in the United States. Speaking with Bob Andelman on Mr. Media, Alexander explained, "Look, I think people everywhere are extremely curious about sexuality, but I don't think you have to be sort of a fringy, edgy, sexual explorer in order to be curious about all kinds of different sexual practices…. As the book goes into, many, many more Americans like me, average folks, are out there experimenting." Alexander further noted to Andelman, "The book is really about how all this is now really quite mainstream. When you get Ivy League businesspeople getting involved in this sort of stuff, it's far past the way it used to be."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, October 15, 1995, Brenda Grazis, review of Green Cathedrals, p. 368; November 15, 2003, David Pitt, review of Rapture: How Biotech Became the New Religion, p. 551.

Library Journal, October 15, 1995, Nancy Moeckel, review of Green Cathedrals, p. 83; November 15, 2003, Dick Maxwell, review of Rapture, p. 95; February 15, 2008, Janet Ingraham Dwyer, review of America Unzipped: In Search of Sex and Satisfaction, p. 123.

Psychology Today, November-December, 2003, review of Rapture, p. 82.

Publishers Weekly, October 2, 1995, review of Green Cathedrals, p. 65; October 27, 2003, review of Rapture, p. 58.

SciTech Book News, December, 2005, review of Rapture.

Technological Forecasting & Social Change, February, 2005, Theodore Modis, review of Rapture, p. 241.

Times Higher Education Supplement, November 26, 2004, Ian Wilmut, "Stars and Prizes of the Regeneration Game," review of Rapture, p. 24.

ONLINE

Mr. Media,http://www.mrmedia.com/ (March 1, 2008), Bob Andelman, interview with Brian Alexander.

MSNBC.com,http://www.msnbc.com/ (June 29, 2008), "Brian Alexander."

Random House Web site,http://www.randomhouse.com/ (June 29, 2008), "America Unzipped," review of America Unzipped.

USNews.com,http://www.usnews.com/ (January 21, 2004), "An Interview with Brian Alexander, Author of Rapture: How Biotech Became the New Religion."

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Alexander, Brian 1959- (Brian Robert Alexander)

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