The power of Hello Kitty is simply irresistible, even for highbrow writers. During last week's Book Fair, the organiser, the Trade Development Council, ran a cultural tour of old Hong Kong for several distinguished mainland and Taiwan writers. Few showed up, according to sources. Taiwanese publisher and commentator Nan Fang-shuo excused himself, citing a conflict of schedules. Only Su Tong of Raise the Red Lantern fame and Zhang Yihe joined in. For the cultural illiterates - and that includes me because I had no idea who she was before I started researching to write this article - Zhang wrote the highly acclaimed memoir, The Last Aristocrats, about her father and other intellectuals who were accused of being rightists during Mao Zedong's purges in the 1950s. The book, banned on the mainland, depicts the hardships and moral dilemmas of intellectuals during a period when any expression of critical analysis was brutally suppressed. (Actually I haven't read it but that's what one critic was quoted as saying on the internet.) Zhang, according to those on the tour, got bored rather soon with Wan Chai's old neighbourhoods and went into a bookstore - to buy Hello Kitty souvenirs. Only Su stayed for the entire tour, and managed to smoke an entire pack of cigarettes.