A new biography of the often overlooked Wright. It is hard to believe that when, after Wright's death, newspapers sought comments from government leaders, a spokesman for then Vice-President Richard Nixon said, ""No one here has ever heard of Wright."" Intervening years have brought several biographies of this difficult figure, and Wright himself has given his own version in his autobiography. Here, Einbinder seeks a synthesis of known aspects of Wright's life and finds in his temperamental style and his turbulent life, some clues to Wright's architecture. Wright's crustiness is seen as the genesis of his special American form of architecture, an architecture that grew from the land that was its foundation. Wright's contumely may have been overdone (New York, he said, was ""an overgrown village, a vast prison with a glass front, an incongruous mantrap of monstrous dimensions""). But it let him break free from the Europeans, such as Le Corbusier, whom he saw as dehumanizing the landscape. (In a typical youthful act of defiance, he turned down a free course of study at the famed Ecole des Beaux-Arts in order to pursue his own independent career designing suburban homes.) Wright's tragedy may have been that he didn't always understand the nation that he presumed to represent artistically. In a land based upon thrift, his motto was ""Earn what you spend,"" a fine enough spur for the great man, but a motto that might create misery for mere mortals. Einbinder does not settle the question once posed by Robert Moses as to how much of Wright ""was genius and how much was, let us say, showmanship."" But he offers here a handy retrospective encapsulation of that career which always lurks in the background of architectural discussion.