Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession

Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession

by Julie Powell


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Julie Powell thought cooking her way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking was the craziest thing she'd ever do--until she embarked on the voyage recounted in her new memoir, CLEAVING.

Her marriage challenged by an insane, irresistible love affair, Julie decides to leave town and immerse herself in a new obsession: butchery. She finds her way to Fleischer's, a butcher shop where she buries herself in the details of food. She learns how to break down a side of beef and French a rack of ribs--tough, physical work that only sometimes distracts her from thoughts of afternoon trysts.

The camaraderie at Fleischer's leads Julie to search out fellow butchers around the world--from South America to Europe to Africa. At the end of her odyssey, she has learned a new art and perhaps even mastered her unruly heart.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316003377
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 11/17/2010
Pages: 306
Sales rank: 1,038,232
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

After a misspent youth involving loads of dead-end jobs and several questionable decisions, Julie Powell, author of Julie & Julia—made into a major motion picture by Nora Ephron starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams—has found her calling as a writer-cum-butcher. She lives in Long Island City, Queens, when she isn't in Kingston, NY, cutting up animals.


Queens, New York

Date of Birth:

April 20, 1973

Place of Birth:

Austin, Texas


B.A. in English and Theater & Dance, Amherst College, 1995

Table of Contents

Author's Note ix

Prologue 1

Part I Apprentice

1 Love and a Butcher Shop 17

2 Boned Out 33

3 Fajita Heartbreak 63

4 Stuffing Sausage 85

5 Break Down 99

6 Off the Hoof 123

7 Opus Nauseous 145

8 Meathead Holiday 160

9 Too Close for Comfort Food 231

10 The Dying Art 253

11 Hanging Up the Knife 266

Part II Journeywoman

12 Carniceria 283

13 Still Undercooked 318

14 When in Tanzania 359

Part III Master?

15 A Butcher Returns 419

Epilogue 439

Acknowledgments 449

Index of Recipes 451

Customer Reviews

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Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession 2.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 70 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found Julie's first book "Julie and Julia" very entertaining,humorous, sometimes sad, but well worth the read. I cannot say near the same for "Cleaving". The butcher details were ad nauseum. I found the public disclosure of the personal choices in the book very uncomfortable. Needless to say, I was very disappointed. I don't think they will be making a movie out of this one.
Sess-Jooner More than 1 year ago
Yes, this book is different from Julie and Julia. Yes, it is the SAME person. For those who said they didn't like it because Julie had an affair, Boo Hoo. Julie is human, everybody makes mistakes, I'm not even done reading the entire book, and I can finish it without judging her. I'm sure she had Eric's permission to write this, he would definitely NOT find out about every little detail of the affair through the book. However, Julie's writing style isn't awesome, I don't really like that she goes through EVERY SINGLE DETAIL of cleaving, I'm sure there's a better way of getting the point across other than saying everything she sees. It gets a little repetitive and boring after reading every cut and every movement of the same animal over and over again. Before you started reading this book, you knew it was going to be more indepth about Julie, and probably not as "fun" as Julie and Julia. Julie goes after something she wants to do, and has to sacrifice things in order to do them, some sacrifices harder than others. Judge the writing more than the person. It might get you somewhere.
aliceweinberg More than 1 year ago
Nearly didn't finish this... it's up there with Nicholson Baker's "Fermata" in terms of being repulsive, but lacked Fermata's "so bad it's good" qualities. Also, this is fact where Fermata has the benefit of being fiction. This is a memoir of a completely self centered person whose main "cleaving" is not the type that she does in the butcher shop in which she apprentices, but is of the lives of those around her, without any care in the world. I found myself wondering if Ms. Powell was a clinical narcissist, and on the whole, found the whole experience rather stomach-turning. I turned page after page hoping she would "get better", but alas, she didn't... What's worse is that her husband wasn't portrayed as a sympathetic character, either. While I initially cared about the cuckold, I quickly came to equally dislike both he and his wife... his passive aggression and retaliatory cheating didn't make me care that his wife was running around on him, because he was no better than she was. Julie's managed to accomplish two things, portray herself as a selfish, immature person and portray her husband as equally asinine...
Thyan More than 1 year ago
I loved Julie and Julia- it was such a good read, but this one, sorry. I lost sympathy for Julie almost from the start. I loved the quirky romance we were given in her first book between her and her husband Eric including the comments from her friends about what it is like to be still be with the only man you have ever been with. I'm sorry, Eric did not deserve this. The graphic description of her affair paired with graphic descriptions on how to cut meat left me wondering why I kept reading. I kept hoping it would get better. So sad. I am by no means a prude and I certainly don't judge Julie, but I don't have to read her confessions.
Anais1999 More than 1 year ago
I loved Julie and Julia, so I was excited when I got this one. Wow, what a difference! Julie and Julia - had to make myself stop reading so I can go to sleep. Cleaving - have to make myself read a couple of pages so I can fall asleep. I liked Julie after reading the first book - I am annoyed by her now. Butchering details don't really make a great read, and details about slaughter... Why?? All this moaning about D, and what they did and didn't do in bed - why?? I wish I stopped at Julie and Julia...
JodyPeaches More than 1 year ago
I think there are a number of different issues at play here if you're looking for a review. We can look at the writing or the narrative or what the narrative describes. The first is the most abstract - how does Powell do as a writer. Not bad, not great. I've read better and I've read worse. Then the narrative. This is separate from what the narrative describes if only as an answer to the question: Would the book stand on its own if it were fiction? The structure is murky, at best. I've read better and I've read worse. Now on to Powell as a person and her actions as a person. After my more or less mediocre ratings on the two above criteria, this is where the book fails. Miserably and insultingly. While I have read reviews praising Powell on her honesty, since when is honesty license for utter cruelty? Ten minutes with Powell's prose describing her numerous humiliations of her husband (who she once described as "saintly") will make my point. The details of the affair are cruel enough but filling a book with them for all the world to read only compounds the harsh disrespect she obviously holds for her husband. Ask yourself this question whenever she describes the time she's spending with her lover - the make-out sessions with "D" while Eric slept, unknowing, in the next room or the bruises "D" left on her body after sex: How must Eric have felt when he learned about this? And how must he feel knowing everyone who owns the book can read about it? Honesty is one thing, but simple human compassion should have compelled her to leave the marriage or at the very least spare the rest of us this sad destructive dysfunctional story. Decide for yourself whether you want to reward her despicable actions by buying the book.
Wink09 More than 1 year ago
Having thoroughly enjoyed the movie, I eagerly bought this book (a signed copy by the author)and the DVD as a combined Christmas gift for a young relative who is a wonderful cook. After noticing the pervasive foul language in a few passages, and being a retired teacher, I decided that I should read the book before giving it as a gift to someone I cared about. The writing is terrible, the language is coarse, and the entire premise of the book itself--how to commit adultery and enjoy it--was detestable. Also, the technical advice about butchering is feeble at best. Do not waste your money. Barnes and Noble offers thousands of books more worthy of your time and effort.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow - what a sad attempt. I found Ms. Powell to be very sad and somewhat depressing. I think her educational journey was interesting and perhaps even intreguing, but her personal life just detracted from what the reader could have gotten out her experiences. I would not recommend. Two thumbs down - for sure!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For those fans out there of Julie and Julia, step away from this book immediately. This book will make you dislike the author, whom I truly liked after reading her first novel. This book made me at times want to throw it against a wall because of the authors own lack of self control and complete foolishness. This book takes the reader on a ride through her illicit affair on her long suffering husband, who never stands up for himself or his marriage. While her first novel took you on a culinary journey, this takes you on a journey to nowhere.
BN_Nut More than 1 year ago
This was the hardest read in a very long time... terrible and very disappointing... not only in content, but in story line.
debbook More than 1 year ago
Julie Powell writes her second memoir after Julie and Julia, which I had really enjoyed. I almost didn't read this one as I had seen poor reviews. But the first one had bad reviews also, and I liked that one a lot. Julie Powell is fresh from the success of her first book and also her first affair. She has been seeing "D" for almost two years. Her husband is aware of the affair but they do not split up, at least not permanently. The story picks up as the affair is breaking up. Julie has become fascinated with butchery and is looking for an apprenticeship, which she eventually finds in a small butcher shop two hours out of the city. This eventually leads to travel to Argentina, Ukraine, and Tanzania to discover butchery in other cultures. my review: I really liked this book. However, I'm not really sure why. I don't approve of infidelity, but worse is the disrespect that Julie seems to show her husband, and he in return. She is obsessed with D, texting him constantly, though aware that he husband reads her texts. He then indulges in his own affair, though more to punish her. The fact that for the most part, they stay together during this and not discussing the affair seems insane. But having never been married, perhaps I just don't understand. Julie doesn't want to divorce Eric, her husband, as she loves him and considers him more than a soul mate. They have been together since college. I also have little tolerance for women that are obsessed with men as Julie is with D. Even after the affair ends, she continues to text him all the time, waiting for a response. I also get frustrated with people that seem to have such chaos in their lives. I also am not a huge red meat person (though I did have more than one helping of prime rib at Christmas) and I love animals. The idea of reading about the butchering of these animals is not something that would hold appeal to me. Yet, all that said, I liked the book. She is a great writer, maybe her honest portrayal of herself and her flaws won me over. And I guess I admired her commitment to such a difficult job as apprenticing as a butcher and her drive to really succeed. She also doesn't seem to rest on her laurels of her successful first book, barely even mentioning it. The end was not as finished as I would have liked, but this is someone's real life, not a novel. There are also some recipes interspersed throughout the book. Ultimately, it is the fact that she hides from nothing, whether it is her honesty with her husband about her affair, that she eats parts of meat most of us would balk at, even drinking goat's blood as part of a slaughter ritual in Tanzania, that makes me admire her or at least be able to appreciate her story. This is not a book I would recommend to everyone, it does not have universal appeal, especially if you have a weak stomach or are a vegetarian. But it is frank, honest, and well-written. my rating 4/5
ChristineGCG More than 1 year ago
Maybe she did not know, but her "People" should have. This book was honest, but ugly. It was real, but really just painful. I don't judge her story, just the story telling and avenue to tell it.
LegalBeagle More than 1 year ago
"Be careful what you wish for" is the saying that reverberated through my head while reading Julie Powell's new memoir Cleaving. After the huge success of her break through memoir Julie and Julia, author Powell is contacted by an old flame. This leads to an affair that nearly destroys Powell's marriage as well as her self worth. At the same time as her personal soap opera, Powell embarks on an apprenticeship, as background for Cleaving, at Fleisher's butcher shop. The memoir switches between detailed depictions of butchery along Powell's romantic travails. Periodically recipes are included. While this seems disjointed it actually works fairly well. Witness, this passage: A liver is unlike any other organ . . . . A liver is a mystery. It's a filter. The liver records experience, the indulgences and wrong turns; it contains within it a constantly updated state-of-the union address. But it keeps what it knows a secret. Encoded. It cleans up after itself, too, will after a time purge files, dispensing unnecessary information, what's been relegated to the past, keeping what's needed. There are even some hopeful, possibly deluded souls who believe a cirrhotic liver can heal itself, with time, and with gentleness. Cleaving was a difficult read for me. One the one hand, I admired Powell's candor about her obsession with her ex lover. Anyone who has ever been on the wrong side of a love turned sour can probably relate to some of the feelings and/or actions that Powell confesses to. On the other hand, I sometimes felt that reading it was the literary equivalent of pawing through Powell's lingerie drawer (even with the author's invitation and the written consents of her husband Eric and her ex D). In addition, while Powell is a gifted writer, I generally skimmed over many of the detailed butchery passages. In sum, this memoir was a mixed bag for me. Cleaving is a cautionary tale of the pitfalls of answered prayers. (Review based on a book borrowed from the library.)
bermudaonion on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After the success of her first book, Julie and Julia, Julie Powell was searching for a new project. Since she¿d been fascinated with the world of butchery for years, she decided to seek out an an apprenticeship in the art of turning animals into meat. She had to search for a little while, but finally found Fleisher¿s, a butcher shop in upstate New York, willing to take her on for an unpaid, 6 month apprenticeship.Cleaving by Julie Powell is the story of her life during the time of her apprenticeship. Fleisher¿s and the people who worked there seemed to be just what Julie needed at a difficult time in her life. Her descriptions of butchery are pretty vivid, so they made me cringe a few times.I was really excited to listen to the audio version of Cleaving, since I loved Julie and Julia, but I¿m kind of at a loss of how to review it. I enjoy Julie¿s writing style and I think she does a great job narrating her books, but I oftentimes felt like she shared a little too much information. She seemed to be going through a mid-life crisis (in her early 30¿s) during the period this book was set and I felt that she brought some of her issues upon herself with her actions.Julie¿s descriptions of food are fantastic, though. As I read them, I wished I enjoyed food, and in particular meat, more than I do. It¿s obvious that she has a passion for food and butchery. Unfortunately, she had some other passions that weren¿t quite so healthy.There are some recipes included in the book, but they¿re mostly for meat. Since I listened to the audio version, I¿d have to search for them and write them down, so I probably won¿t try any of them.Cleaving is not a book for the whole family. I don¿t think the language in this book is as bad as it was in Julie and Julia, but there is still plenty you wouldn¿t want your children to hear. There are also some sexual scenes that might offend some readers. Overall, I¿d say this book was just okay for me. I do hope that Julie Powell has gotten her life in order, because I think she has promise as an author.
LarsTheLibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Julie Powell's life is falling apart and it is ALL HER FAULT. She's cheating on her husband with a man she previously cheated on him with in college. She falls in love with the man and even considers leaving her husband for him, even as the lover pulls away from her and stops returning her calls. As the book progesses, she continues to pull away from her loving and supportive husband and desperately and needily clings to the lover, stalking him and purchasing $300 french scarves for him even after things are broken off. Seeking the same thrill she gets with the lover, D, she engages in anonymous sex encounters that leave her hollow and angry, sending D text messages about what he made her do.Julie (I feel comfortable calling her Julie rather than Ms. Powell since her name was in her first book, and after all she describes her sex life very vividly, so we can afford to be a little familiar) also does some butchery in t his book. But it's almost an afterthought. As one of the many who read Julie and Julia and ended up loving the bits about Julia and the bits about food, but HATING Julie, this book takes it to the nth degree. I would have loved to read more about the butchery. I wanted to be a butcher for a large chunk of my childhood, at the age when the other girls planned on being ballerinas. I did NOT care to read more about how she leaves her blackberry lying around with sexy text messages that she refuses to delete so that her husband can read them. I don't want to read about her being in love with one man, but refusing to even contemplate divorcing another.The whole time, Julie admits her failings with unflinching honesty. Normally, this would be a good thing in a memoir, but with Julie, she admits shocking things as if she is daring you to judge her. Her grandmother was an alcoholic, and Julie drinks at least two glasses of wine every night, turning to more alcohol the moment she is angry or the relationship is on the rocks. She talks in Buffyisms and describes her "special" oneness with her husband, and seems to think she is unique, as if EVERY COUPLE EVER didn't feel that way about their spouse, having a secret shorthand language, spouting pop culture quotes and knowing them instantly from context. It is not special.Mostly, I think Julie treats the reader the same way she treats Eric. She brandishes her faults and shortcomings, daring us to judge her, saying things first so that we cannot wound her. Then, as she confesses and breaks down, she truly just wants us to absolve her. She leaves her blackberry around BEGGING Eric to discover the affair, and riles him up, hoping that he will finally break and force her to do penance for what she has done, end up forgiving her since she cannot forgive herself. I do not want to be involved, I don't want to absolve her.
Lilac_Lily01 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Well, I did like Mrs. Powell's first book. I liked her original voice and I was hoping to find more of the same in her second book. Although, the voice is still there I couldn't get over her choice of topics. There were some interesting parts such as her butchery apprenticeship and her travels abroad. However, the main focus of this book is the authors love life and I could have certainly done without that part. It's one thing what two people in a marriage -in the privacy of their own home- do or don't do. But to put all that dirty laundry out there just seems wrong to me. The author cheats on her loving husband, and then proceeds to humiliate him by sharing every little intimate detail of her affair with the whole world. If this had been a novel it may have been acceptable. But throughout the whole book I kept feeling bad for her husband, who -thanks to his author wife- will never be able to fully forget this whole ordeal. Why would you do something like that to your so-called soulmate??? That's a funny way of showing someone you care. And don't expect to find a "moral of the story" or some kind of conclusion at the end. There is none.
AfroFogey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found it on the dollar rack at Barnes and Noble and I have to say I overpaid. Boring and witless, with out the Julia Child angle Ms. Powell simply can't carry a book.
RARichard on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had hoped for the same excitement that I found in Julie and Julia. I like the way Julie Powell it was a good book. But (as she predicted) I was disappointed when reading about her relationship. She even tells you that she wrote as she thought / remembered so it may be choppy and it was. But I loved learning more about butchering and her world travels. And when she writes another book I will read that one too.
Shmuel510 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I liked Julie and Julia, the author's first book, but it was hard to separate that from the blog it was based on. For that matter, even though the book went beyond what the blog had included, it was hard to avoid the fact that it was a derivative work. (Which is not to sell it short. Powell's voice is strong... and was sadly lacking from the film adaptation, which I otherwise liked well enough.) What would happen if Powell set out to write a book as a book from the start? Could she pull it off?It turns out she could. This is way better than the last one. Somehow Powell manages to combine information about butchering animals, an account of her wrestling with her marriage and extramarital affairs, a travel narrative, and over a dozen recipes, and make it all flow together naturally. Probably not for vegetarians, but otherwise it's a page-turner.
flameintofire on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
two big reasons why I shouldn't have liked this book:1. I'm vegetarian and there are a few digs in there towards us non meat eaters -- well beyond the fact that this is a book that goes into graphic detail about cutting up animals.2. I'm not a fan of whiny females -- having her constantly pining for and bombarding a man with emails and texts that go unanswered-- Its crazy, sad and a serious lack of respect and pride for oneself.It is engaging though... like watching a really bad reality TV show, and frankly its a nice self esteem book for everyone else, sort of a money+fame does not equal happiness. I can admire her for airing her dirty laundry so frankly for the world to see. It was a fun novel to read.
iamtelling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is a disaster! It is perhaps the most self-indulgent, smug, repulsive memoir that I have ever stomached (barely). I'm not sure which was worse: the gross-out descriptions of pig innards or the gratuitous, adulterous sex. I didn't come away from this book feeling that I learned anything.
evangelista on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fans of Julie and Julia are typically very forgiving of the flawed, struggling Powell because they identify on some level with attaching oneself to an endeavor in order to define oneself, to strive to become something bigger or better than one's current self. Fans also tend to be Julia Child lovers who fancy the idea of cooking their way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking themselves. The cookbook itself becomes the focal point around which the memoir revolves. The quest is finite and is successfully resolved by book's end.Cleaving, however, ostensibly has a focal point in Powell's quest to learn the skills of butchery during a six month apprenticeship, but is in fact, about many unconnected things of which most readers will have little interest or sympathy. All but one reader among us this morning confessed to skimming through the butchering sections of the book as they approached midpoint. These passages were lengthy, mostly tedious explanations of various butchering tasks and cuts of meat. Passages that are so flatly delivered, so passionless that one has to wonder why Powell has decided to dedicate herself to acquiring this new skill. And she never really explains. At least as not as clearly as she details an inexplicable new insight into the character and motivations of Jack the Ripper. Really. Don't ask.Powell spends an enormous amount of time making the reader privy to the loathsome details of her disintegrating marriage, their mutual extramarital affairs, the stalking of her ex-lover, her descent into near-alcoholism, her attraction to various forms of self-degradation (I could go on but am feeling irritated again just writing this). By the time she embarks on her Elizabeth Gilbert-esque travels to experience butchering about the globe, one is likely to be wondering where the hell her editor was. What is this book about? Self-indulgence and possible mental illness is all my book group could see by the (blessed) end. The kicker for this group of women more than ready for a little girlfriend talk when we picked up the book? She ripped off the whole name reveal of Big from the final episode of Sex in the City when she reveals the name of her lover at the end. Look Julie, we will read your lackluster latest endeavor to the final page, but don't steal from one of our favorite shows. Unforgiveable.Sad. Not especially well-written. Reads like a person struggling for an encore after a successful debut. Reads like the babbling of a lost narcissist. One group member commented, "I just wanted to throw the book across my apartment when I finished." Another commented, "I am not sure why I kept reading other than the fascination of watching her building burn." I think you get the idea.
Lisahgolden on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm on page four. I already don't want to put it down. Carol Ziogas is right. This book is the perfect read for me right now.
5aweek on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession, by Julie PowellJulie Powell's penchant for whining carries from her previous novel into "Cleaving." While reading the book, I actually felt very bogged down and depressed, especially after seeing page after page of her whining about her troubled marriage and pathetic affair. I call her affair pathetic because even after it's clear the other man doesn't want her, she stalks him, writes to him, texts him, and doesn't give up for two years (and the reader gets to hear about it *every* time she tries to contact him). Perhaps writing "Cleaving" was a form of therapy for Powell, but it's the sort of writing that should stay in a blog or diary, not in a book. I wanted to like this book. After not particularly enjoying Powell's first novel, "Julie and Julia," I had hoped that she would show something worthy of having published a second book. But "Cleaving" fell flat for me, like an unsharpened knife slicing into bread. The main subject, butchering, is only somewhat interesting, and I think the reader is overdosed on descriptions and techniques on how to break up this animal, or how to cut down that animal. My eyes started glazing over after the fifth or sixth long passage of yet another butchering story. I had read the prologue of "Cleaving" in my copy of "Julie and Julia," and it caught my attention, but for me that was probably the best part of the book. The other employees at Fleisher's are far more interesting than Powell herself, and I did enjoy reading her stories about them. However her trips to different countries are recounted in a so-so manner, including way too many experiences of men finding her attractive. Do I really need to hear that a Maasai warrior finds her pretty, after hearing that Ukrainian and Argentinian men do as well? If I were her, I certainly wouldn't want such details of my life spewed on a page, published for anyone and everyone to read. But I suppose it does take guts to publicly talk about an affair, her marriage troubles, her husband's lover, anonymous sex, etc., and her use of butchering as a way to find herself. I'm just not sure if it's good literary material; the liberal sprinkling of Buffy metaphors certainly doesn't help.I'd say get "Cleaving" out from the library if you're determined to read it, before parting with your money. 1/5.
khuggard on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As a general rule I don't write reviews of books I didn't finish. But I hated this book enough that I'm breaking that rule. I was actually surprised by just how much I disliked this book because I quite enjoyed Powell's first book, Julie & Julia. Apparently a lot of other people did too because her publishers gave her a deal for a second book. But perhaps that was a premature decision because it seems like Powell doesn't know how to write a book without a gimmick behind it. The gimmick for her first book was cooking every recipe in Mastering the Art of French cooking. It worked. The gimmick for Cleaving was working in a butcher shop. It didn't work. Also it seems that Powell isn't as adept at writing books as she is at writing blog posts. Julie & Julia started out as a series of blog posts that were later turned into a book. All of Julie's cuteness and snarkiness translated well from her head to her blog then later to her book. Of course she didn't know that her humble blog would one day become a book, so that certainly affected her writing process. Unfortunately when she set out to write a manuscript, knowing it would become a book, she lost a lot of her charm. It was kind of like a kid who tries to be cute. The very act of trying kills the cuteness. Then we have the adultery. I knew when I picked this book up that it contained adultery, but I think I was anticipating more of a little slip up, perhaps some remorse and self-reflection. I wasn't anticipating a marriage where both partners treat each other with so little respect that they don't even try to hide their affairs. It made my stomach churn even more than the grizzly butchery descriptions. Not only is this book not worth finishing, it's not worth picking up in the first place.