Potter discourages auto-biographical interpretation of his work. He says, in
Waiting for the Boat, "one of the reasons I choose to write 'drama' rather
than prose fiction is to avoid the question which has so damaged, or
intellectually denuded, the contemporary novel: 'who is saying this?'". But
later he describes a time in hospital with psoriasis,
"unable to move much else
besides my left arm and maybe my penis, in an occasional erection which
imperiously seemed to take no account of my collapsed hands, caked and cracked
skin and feverishly swollen joints". The comparison with Marlow is unavoidable.
Many of the elements in The Singing Detective can be understood in terms of his,
much reported, life story; the betrayal of the classmate and the Forest of Dean
setting for example. When Dr. Gibbons reads a passage from Marlow's novel it
practically paraphrases Potter's novel Hide and Seek.
W. Stephen Gilbert, in
his biography of Potter, says, "What writer has laid himself quite so bare,
quite so unsparingly, quite so often as Dennis Potter. His work bursts with the
circumstances of his own life". Peter Stead,
in Dennis Potter, says though "like all writers Potter is
not writing of his experiences but rather out of them".