University culture is an alluring one. The intellectualism, the youthfulness and the permeating notion of hope for the future all contribute to a sort of mythic ideal. Though romanticized, there is truth to the idea that college is a period in a person’s life unlike any other, for those who are privileged enough to experience it. It’s a time for figuring oneself out and a time when failure hardly ever has lasting consequences. It’s a time to take risks and test different modes of self and develop deep and varying interests. This ephemeral period has been captured in literature and film, most recently by a group of Penn students. Working diligently the semester before the seniors on the team graduated this past spring, these students compiled and published a book, 33 to 40, about their time at Penn.
Something of a cultural time capsule, the project takes inspiration from the iconic Japanese publication Take Ivy, a 1965 book focusing on the fashion of (male) Ivy League students. Featuring candid snapshots of well–dressed young Ivy Leaguers, the book curated a portrait of style which quickly became popular in Japan. 33 to 40 follows Take Ivy in its attempt to capture the essence of the Ivy League environment, in this case Penn’s. The project’s site defines the book: “This publication is part photo book—capturing student lives’ on Penn’s campus—and part cultural documentary—essays and anecdotes encompassing Penn at present.”
For the project’s managing editor Bryan Choo (W & C ’16), the book was meant to encapsulate what he enjoyed most about going to school at Penn. Speaking with Street, he meditated on the physical product and how, as with producing 33 to 40, his most enjoyable times were when he was able to create. He also mentioned the satisfaction that comes with holding a physical object, with being able to read a bound and published book. For Bryan, 33 to 40 is a reminder of his time at Penn. It’s a relic–to–be, a physical artifact left to signify in the future, again, his time on Penn’s campus. The book, only published so far in a small edition and released Friday, September 2, has been met with positivity from the Penn community. Bryan mentioned how, due to the continued demand, it might one day be stocked on Amazon or even in the Penn Bookstore.
“33 to 40 is a showcase of what can happen when people put their minds to something and run with it,” Bryan said. He noted how at Penn there exists a tendency for students to follow only what they think they should do, not what they actually want to do. He stressed the importance of breaking this course, of identifying what you want for yourself and making it happen. He also defined the difference between manifesting one’s ideas and simply talking about them, and how only the former actually produces something meaningful. For Bryan, Penn was a place where he could do anything, and 33 to 40 represents that fact. Conceived and produced only during the second semester of his senior year with design editor Ashley Leung (C '16), lead photographer Alex Fisher (C '19) and other content contributors, the project was an ambitious one from the beginning. The fact that he and his friends were able to create the book is a testament to what happens when you properly recognize and take advantage of the University’s resources. Everyone has great ideas, but only some people make them concrete.