People have been hornswoggled about how hard proper Straussian esoteric reading is - or perhaps about how proper Straussian esoteric reading is hard. All you have to do is track separately:
- The literal implications of the text which add up to something coherent
- The connotative subtext that doesn't literally add up to anything coherent
This is hard because people lose reading comprehension when triggered (and we're triggered MUCH more often than the connotative subtext of trauma discourse would imply); it's hard to stay logical while engaging with misdirection, but reading comprehension requires logic.
The drug to use is weed (at a level where you're still able to words), not alcohol. Makes it much easier to parse a sentence, be confused about whether it's true, and then realize: "Oh, that's a lie. That makes sense. I see why someone would tell that lie. Moving on..." (Or maybe it's just me.)
Exoteric vs esoteric isn't necessarily a binary between the literal implications of the text and the connotative subtext. Sometimes the esoteric reading involves making inferences from contrasts between those two aspects, and the exoteric involves a kind of muddle.
Let's take Plato's Republic as an example. There's one part where Socrates compares the warrior caste to guard dogs, making some comment about how dogs are inherently philosophical, i.e. knowledge-loving, because they will bark at anything unfamiliar. This is backwards and makes no sense except as some kind of joke commenting on an underlying conflic between the philosopher-ruler caste and guard-dog caste, but exoteric readings tend to just take it as Plato's opinion that dogs love learning because they hate new things.
Richard Polt's article Recent Translations of the Republic does a good job of explaining that case (pp 463-4).
Likewise with all the times Socrates says something to the effect of "here is a wacky story that I heard a vague rumor of and it might be a good idea to behave as though it were true" and people just report the story as Plato's belief.